When Marcell Frazier arrived at College of the Siskiyous, the 1,800-student junior college situated just south of the Oregon border in Weed, California, in 2014, he wasn’t quite yet the hulking pass rusher Missouri fans would soon know. In fact, according to Charlie Roche, the school’s athletic director and former head football coach, he wasn’t even close.
"Boy, was he weak when he got here," Roche said. "We stuck him with the cornerbacks in the weight room he was so small. He had a long way to go."
By the time Frazier arrived to play for the Eagles, he had already joined and left two other football programs. At UNLV, he wasn’t academically eligible after high school. At Iowa Western, the fit wasn’t right and Frazier redshirted.
College of the Siskiyous was his last chance at football.
"Smack dab in the middle of the wilderness of northern California," as Frazier remembers it, he regained his size and strength, left the cornerbacks behind and performed well enough to earn first-team All-North California defensive end honors and the scholarship offer from Missouri that propelled his career.
College of the Siskiyous is where everything changed for Frazier, the place that launched a football career that took him to the Southeastern Conference and next the NFL.
Now, Frazier is returning to the rustic locale in the mountains to take the next step in his life.
This past week, Frazier was named head coach of the track and field program at College of the Siskiyous. The 26-year-old will also serve as an assistant with the school’s football program. The track and football seasons for the school have already been pushed to 2021, but with stints in the NFL, CFL and XFL behind him and a master’s degree in education under his belt, Frazier is ready to step into his next phase: pursuing a career in coaching.
"It’s an exciting move," he said. "Whenever you start a new opportunity, there’s going to be excitement about it. Just like football, I’m going to wake up every day and attack it."
Fans around Columbia knew Marcell Frazier the football player, the defensive end who harassed quarterbacks, swallowed running backs and recorded 17.5 sacks for the Tigers from 2015-17. The man they probably weren’t so familiar with is Marcell Frazier the track and field star, the one who competed in the high jump and ran 4x400-meter relays and the 400-meter dash long before his 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame shoehorned him into pads and a helmet.
Growing up in the racing hub of Portland, Oregon, Frazier was born into track and field. His parents, Tyrone and Cheryl, ran track. So did his brother and sister, and as a child, Frazier and his family competed in races, meets and informal competitions all over the city while he and his siblings joined club and school track teams. When the Olympics or NCAA track and field championships rolled around, the family was glued to the television, catching most every qualifying meet and watching every sprint, long jump and discus throw. Frazier’s favorite athlete was Jamaican star Usain Bolt.
"I come from a pretty strong track town," Frazier said over the phone this past week. "If you look at inner cities in America, racing and sprinting, or just lining up and going at it against a brother or a sister or an auntie or an uncle – in my community at least – it’s what we did growing up."
Far longer than football, track and field has been a part of who Frazier is. Now, the sport is guiding his next step.
Many of the athletes who arrive at College of the Siskiyous don’t plan to stay long. Some come because they were underrecruited in high school. Others, similar to Frazier, come after leaving other programs. It’s a non-scholarship university and, for the most part, exposure is limited. The goal for many is to get recruited and to get out.
"We take anybody and everybody," Roche said.
The school’s track and field program at College of the Siskiyous has had success in its past, but the team Frazier is now set to take over is in a position for growth. During its most fruitful periods, such as when Roche played football for the school in the early 1990s, the track and field team was filled with players from the football team who took on track in the offseason. Adding dual-sport athletes to the program is a core part of Roche’s vision, and he sees Frazier as the right coach for the role.
"I see an opportunity for a very positive role model for our athletes," Roche said. "I hope he can help recruit some dual-sport athletes that play both sports for us."
Back around the sport of track and field with his toes dipped into football as well, Frazier views his new job as a chance not only to stick around sports, but an opportunity to mold the lives of young athletes.
While playing for Missouri, Frazier was invited back to his alma mater, David Douglas High School, to speak to the school’s athletes. He spoke to them about his experiences in high school and at all four college programs he’d been a part and everything it took to get there. The looks on their faces and the way they received his message changed his entire perspective on what he wanted to do with his life.
"Seeing their eyes light up, that sparked things for me," Frazier said. "I knew that’s what I wanted to do after football."
The dream of playing professional football, says Frazier, isn’t completely over. He intends to honor his new contract with College of the Siskiyous and see if the itch is still there after. But there’s a reason why Frazier took the time to earn his master’s in education, and why he returned to coach and mentor at David Douglas in 2018.
It’s the same reason why he’s stepping into this new role with the Eagles.
"The impact you can have on lives and the impact you can have on people is seismic," Frazier said. "I think that I can have a broader impact."
At College of the Siskiyous, Frazier will get to work with athletes who arrived there because they weren’t recruited, because they couldn’t qualify academically at the next level or because they were dismissed from a previous program. He’ll coach kids with "a chip on their shoulders," he says; kids in the same position he was in when he arrived at College of the Siskiyous.
It’s an opportunity he’s been waiting for.
"The chance to impact people who aren’t shoe-ins for the next level or for other parts of life," he said. "That’s a really cool thing."