Entering his third year as a two-way starter for Grosse Pointe (Mich.) South, the verbal member of Ohio State's class of 2009 was poised for a big season. Then, on the first day of practice in pads, he lined up for his turn in a one-on-one tackling drill. Bursting from his stance, Fragel rushed up and met the team's leading running back and wrestled him to the ground.
As he did so, Fragel and the ballcarrier landed on his left thumb as it twisted awkwardly on the ground.
Immediately, Fragel said he knew it was broken.
"I've broken bones before so as soon as I landed I knew it was broken," he told BuckeyeSports.com. "It wasn't the most painful injury I've ever had though. Right away I knew it was broken and I was disappointed."
Fragel was forced to undergo surgery and had titanium pins inserted into his thumb. Undaunted, he played in his team's first game of the season but was sidelined for week two due to an infection.
South head coach Tim Brandon was forced to change his plans for Fragel. The 6-7, 255-pound athlete was shifted closer to center at the line of scrimmage to offensive tackle, a position he had not manned since he played junior varsity football as a freshman.
"I think Reid was disappointed but it was no situation that he could've done anything about," he said. "It was a freak, accidental injury that happens in football. It was a significant injury with significant surgery and rehab and the whole thing. It took a toll."
Armed with a protective club-like cast, Fragel spent the majority of the season at tackle but eventually moved back outside to tight end. Playing with the cast took some time to get used to, he said.
"You wouldn't think a thumb would be that big, but as a receiver and a blocker who uses it it's a big deal," he said. "Once I started playing with the cast it really affected my game. After some practices and a few games I started to get used to the club and use the right hand more for catching, finger-tipping the ball and then catching it."
He was not able to use the club as a weapon, however, citing the pain he would feel when he made direct contact with the injured appendage.
It was not until the final few games of the season that Fragel was able to play without much pain.
Fragel's effort in the final game of the season stuck with Brandon, who described it as his best game of the season.
"Really we weren't playing for anything," Brandon said. "We were 4-4 and 5-4 in Michigan doesn't get you into the playoffs. He had an unbelievable game, 21 tackles, he had four catches one for a 70-yard touchdown that was called back but he still made the play. He had an outstanding game in his last game in high school."
Fragel was selected to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Game, and he felt that was his best game of the season because he was finally fully healthy.
"At the end of the season I felt like I wanted to have felt all year," he said. "The all-star game that I just played in was my healthiest game of my senior year. To play completely healthy and show what I can do, it was frustrating playing the season with the club on but in the back of my mind I knew I could be playing a lot better. I was just glad I got to show that at the end of the year."
Rated a four-star prospect by Scout.com, Fragel is listed as the No. 12 tight end in the country. Although he could eventually grow into an offensive tackle, the Buckeyes have recruited Fragel as a tight end first.
"Reid is a tight end," Brandon said. "He's a very talented tight end. The only reason people talk about offensive tackle is because he is so big. They're figuring, ‘Well, he's so big we'll make him a tackle.' He is a very talented tight end."
A tight end that might catch some people by surprise after not having the type of senior year he had hoped for, that is.
"I don't really think about things like that," he said. "I don't let other peoples' opinions affect my game too much. I don't really care if people like my game. I like to have goals and pay attention to those."