A Visit with Former Husky Chico Fraley

When Chico Fraley arrived at Washington in 1987, he sat down with defensive coordinator Jim Lambright. "We like your instincts but you're too small," Lambright told him. "Go get in the weight room, and we'll see you in one year. Enjoy the scout team."

Now as a 40-year old, living in Bend, Ore. with a wife and four kids, Fraley looks back fondly at his Washington days. After those humble beginnings on the scout team, Fraley concluded his career five years later with two Rose Bowls and a National Championship. He also had a great time along the way.

"I'm a Lambright disciple," Fraley said. "He preached that if we did something good, we needed to celebrate it. In practice if we got an interception or a sack, all eleven guys would run over and pile on each other. That attitude permeated the program. (Linebacker) Donald Jones had the greatest sack celebration ever. He would do a wide stance, arms up in the air. We would jump on him and he was strong enough to hold us up. That's what is great about college sports. When someone throws down a dunk, or a defender gets a sack, the enthusiasm they show gets into the crowd and everyone has a good time. That's why it was a travesty for college football when Jake Locker got the excessive celebration penalty against BYU last year. That shows you where the NCAA is headed. That should only be called for taunting or if the celebration is excessively long. Besides that, let kids be kids."

As a kid himself, Fraley first saw action in 1988 as a redshirt freshman. It was in the third game of the season, as the Huskies trailed Army in the fourth quarter, that Fraley returned an intercepted fumble for a touchdown.

"It was pretty funny," he recalled. "The Army tailback did an out route. It was only 5 yards down the field. My teammate Eric Briscoe hit him clean, and the ball went straight up in the air and I grabbed it. It was right along our bench. As I was running down the sideline, I was so tired and didn't want to get caught. I heard someone right behind me, but I didn't want to turn around and look. After I got into the end zone, I looked back and it was (teammate) Martin Harrison. They all jumped on me to celebrate. That was my first game I ever played at Husky Stadium."

By the time Fraley entered his senior season of 1991, he was a fierce competitor with a chiseled frame. A teammate described his style of play as akin to a pit bull. That was also an apt description for the entire defense, as the Huskies went 12-0 and won the national championship.

"There were the many hours of preparation that the public never saw," Fraley said. "Hours and hours of film study. We would go to each other's house and study there too. Our preparation was so good, we sometimes knew what plays were coming. When we played Michigan in the 1992 Rose Bowl, if you look back at the tape, there were times when Dave Hoffmann and I were lined up on the same side of the center. Coach James and Coach Lambright had said that Michigan didn't respect us and weren't going to change anything based on how we lined up. Sure enough, they didn't. By the second or third series of the game, Dave and I were reading their line keys and looking at each other. They would tip their play and we would cheat into the hole. There was nothing Michigan could do about it."

The 1991 season may have been the final one for Fraley, but it was the first for freshman sensation tailback Napoleon Kaufman. Fraley has the distinct memory of practicing against Washington's future all-time leading rusher.

"We had the misfortune of having Napoleon on the scout team for the first two weeks of the season," Fraley said. "He was really light at the time, so if I could touch him I could cover him. But if I missed him, he was gone. That poor kid really took a beating. Because us old guys didn't want him running down the field. One of the rules was that on running plays, all eleven defenders had to tag the ball carrier. We would hit Napoleon and knock him on his butt and hold him down so that all the other guys could run over and tag him. The coaches yelled at us a few times, but it was what we needed to do. That kid was something special—he was so fast. As many people recall, in his freshman year he would break away in the open field and fall down. We could actually watch it on tape, and they would slow it down and we could see the reason for it. Most people don't know this--Napoleon's feet would actually miss the ground and that caused him to fall. It was amazing."

It was on January 2, 1992, following Washington's win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl, that Fraley experienced one of his fondest moments.

"I was emotionally drained," he said. "That was the last game of my Husky career. My dad and I had a trip planned to go to Mexico in a motor home. He asked me when we should go, but I was so tired I was going to skip the party in the team hotel. I told him let's get going right away. As we were on the road, we reflected on my Husky career and it was a different kind of joy for me than when we had won the Rose Bowl the year before. There were tears and laughter. I knew that things were changing and I was entering a new chapter of my life."

These days, Fraley is a 40-year old family man, living in the enemy territory of Bend. Many of his friends, of course, are Duck fans. As Oregon has beaten Washington five years in a row, Fraley has taken lots of ribbing. Besides this aspect, life for the former linebacker is good. The family's lifestyle includes camping trips and snowboarding, and Fraley can gaze upon the town from his backyard deck. His thoughts, however, remain very much with Husky football and his former teammates.

"I'm looking forward to hopefully another reunion up there soon," he said. "To see Dana Hall and Dave Hoffmann and all those guys. It's a unique group. We got together for the 10-year reunion a few years ago. We picked up right where we left off, like no time had passed. We ran out of the tunnel, and Walter Bailey did a little dance on the 50-yard line. It was just like old times."
Derek Johnson can be reached at derekjohnsonbooks@comcast.net

Husky Football in the Don James Era available at www.derekjohnsonbooks.com

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