(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)
A call from mom can provide reassurance and a sense of comfort for a college student going through a tough time. During all the tribulations of his college football career, ASU fullback Frank Ogas kept his mother’s words in the back of his mind.
“Frankie, you’re stronger than that.”
Whether it was over the phone, in the stands or on the sidelines, Ogas’ parents provided a constant source of positivity and encouragement. It’s been that way since youth and high school football in the small town of Morenci, AZ.
Ogas tore his MCL and ACL during high school. His father, who coached Morenci football at the time, always preached perseverance, and it took a lot of it for Ogas to come back.
“That was a moment where I had to keep working and working to get better, knowing that it’s going to be worth it at the end of the road,” Ogas said. “That’s an example of something that shaped me coming into college.”
Ogas eventually recovered from his injury and walked on at Arizona State, hoping to find a way into the fold as a linebacker. He spent four years on the scout team and was in constant doubt about continuing his football career.
The journey to a final, redshirt senior year was often frustrating and uncertain. It involved a level of adversity that Ogas had never faced before — even with the knee injury. Despite everything, he approaches his fifth year as a Sun Devil with the chance to compete for snaps for the first time in his career.
Ogas will see time at fullback for ASU this season in goal line and short yardage situations, along with a role on special teams. It’s the perfect confluence of opportunity and system fit for a player with Ogas’ abilities.
“It’s a dream come true,” Ogas said. “There’s been a lot of time, a lot of work this past five years. It’s a blessing to see things play out.”
Teammates and coaches describe Ogas as positive and friendly with a big heart. Maintaining a positive attitude is something he prides himself in — a tool that came in handy when doubt would creep in.
Some walk-ons never have this opportunity. While there are plenty of inspiring stories of walk-ons going on to play in the NFL, the large majority quit football or never make an appearance for their respective colleges.
But Ogas is different because of his refusal to give in to those pressures. He acknowledges that it was mentally draining to have all the time commitment of a student-athlete without game action to show for it.
“This has been the most challenging thing of my life,” Ogas said. “If you asked me two years ago what I’d be doing or if I’d see it through, I would have had some doubt in my head.
“I’m always trying to tell new walk-ons to stick with it, because you never know what’s going to happen.”
There’s a special bond between walk-ons that’s unique to football. Few sports demand the same amount of physical strain and sacrifice, and walk-ons rarely see it pay off in the form of a scholarship. The real reward is often the camaraderie of the experience and lessons learned along the way.
Ogas sees the friendships he’s fostered through football as equal achievements to his newfound play time. Senior running back Demario Richard is among the many friends Ogas has made during his time in Tempe.
“To see the stuff that he’s gone through, I’m proud of him,” Richard said. “He’s one of the guys on the team I’d run through a brick wall for.”
When Richard is running near the goal line, he’ll have a 6-foot, 240-pound brick wall in front of him. Ogas is more than willing to put his body on the line for a score.
“When we go down and we have to get a yard, I will bet my house that we’re going to get it,” Ogas said. “I’ll die before someone stops us from getting the ball in there.”
That’s the attitude that got him to this point. No matter the odds or outlook, Ogas doesn’t let it break his spirit. That, along with his physical build, earned him the nickname “Frank the Tank” from head coach Todd Graham.
ASU has had walk-ons make major contributions in recent years. Names like Jordan Simone and Fred Gammage come to mind — guys that stuck it out and reaped the benefits.
Now that Ogas is seeing those rewards come to light, Graham sees him as a representative of his program’s philosophy: “Character, smart, discipline, tough.”
“There used to be a sign when I was in high school that said: ‘the ones who stay will be champions,’” Graham explained. “One of the top three most important characteristics to build a winner at Arizona State is the walk-on program.”
Ogas stayed, and it paid dividends. On August 31 he’ll take the field as an active player for the first time since high school.
Just as he was able to overcome a devastating knee injury all those years ago, Ogas overcame his walk-on status and earned a shot to finally play. If it weren’t for the attitude instilled by his parents or the encouragement they provided, he might not have made it here.
“It’s all about seeing a challenge and having the physical and mental strength to get through it and get where you want to be,” Ogas said. “That goes for life — we all have our personal challenges we have to get through. I’m truly thankful that this process has made me such a stronger person.”
His mom was right. He was stronger.