Aug 12, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Kiehl Frazier stood at the podium in the Auburn football auditorium Monday, the lights shining on his face. And he stood tall and proud.
Moments earlier, first-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn had announced that Frazier, the 2010 USA Today national high school Offensive Player of the Year and a prize recruit, had moved to safety less than three weeks before his third Auburn season. He practiced there for the first time Monday.
After practice, Frazier responded like a grown man. He had nothing unkind to say about anyone. He said he was excited and that he would go to work becoming the best safety he could be. It was a move, he said, he'd been thinking about for some time.
It didn't just start in recent days, when it became obvious the momentum in the quarterback race was with junior college transfer Nick Marshall and true freshman Jeremy Johnson. It really started last season, that horrific, painful 3-9 Auburn season. Frazier started the first five games at quarterback, and like everything else related to Auburn football in 2012, it didn't work so well.
The mental scars, he admitted Monday, had not gone away, not for him.
"I think I did well enough the first two days to put myself in position to be the quarterback, but that has to be something you have to be all in 100 percent that you are going to be the quarterback at Auburn," Frazier said. "This is one of the biggest programs in the country. To not have your heart in it 100 percent would be letting your team down."
It couldn't have been easy for Frazier or his family or even head coach Gus Malzahn. Frazier came to Auburn on the heels of the 2010 national championship. He intended to be a big-time quarterback, win a championship of his own and go on to the NFL. And now he's on defense, learning a position he played sparingly in high school and setting a different course for his athletic career.
Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Tulsa when he first met Frazier. The relationship with Frazier and his family is strong.
"He's a winner and a class guy," Malzahn said.
Frazier's move came two days shy of four years after Kodi Burns learned he'd lost out to Chris Todd in the race to be the starting quarterback in Malzahn's first season as Auburn's offensive coordinator. Burns agreed to move to wide receiver and stood before his teammates to offer his support for Todd. On that day, he became an Auburn hero. Today, he's an Auburn graduate assistant, a confidant for Frazier and others. He and Frazier talked Sunday.
"Kodi was in the same position as me," Frazier said. "He moved to receiver his third year, and the rest is history. They won the national championship. If I can make as big an impact as Kodi made and be the kind of person Kodi is, I think this will definitely be a good move in the end."
Frazier talked also to his father Robin Beach and to his high school Ronnie Floyd. The message from them all was the same. If you're going to be a safety, be the best safety you can be.
Frazier said Auburn's offense would be in good hands with Johnson, Marshall or sophomore Jonathan Wallace. He said he wouldn't change what happened last season because it had taught him and his teammates a hard lesson.
And he said he never once considered leaving Auburn to see if he could play quarterback somewhere else.
"That's a question a lot of people ask," Frazier said. "I love Auburn. I love the coaching staff. I love the fans. I love my teammates. When I committed to Auburn, I committed for four years, maybe five, however long I stay here."
Kiehl Frazier, the safety, joked about getting a visor from the equipment room to "try to look cool" on the practice field. He left with a smile on his face.
A new adventure waited.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: