Oct. 16, 2004
by C.J. Bowles
At first glance, Charles Frederick looks more like Bob Marley than Randy Moss, his trademark dreadlocks topping a 6-foot-0, 185-pound frame that is the antithesis of the long-and-lean look currently all the rage among NFL wide receivers.
One glance, though, does not nearly do Frederick justice.
The Lake Worth, Fla., native made scouts look twice in a 38-17 Husky victory at Oregon State last season, breaking Husky Hall of Famer Hugh McElhenny's 53-year old school record for all-purpose yards in a game. While the Beavers focused on shutting down fellow wideout and 2004 first-round NFL draft pick Reggie Williams, Frederick flashed his blazing speed and soft hands to the tune of 216 yards receiving (on nine catches), adding 101 more on punt returns and 54 on kickoff runbacks. The junior's total of 371 all-purpose yards broke McElhenny's record by nine yards, and was just eight short of the Pac-10 record of 379.
In the film "The Matrix," individuals are trained to move so quickly that from their perspective, even a speeding bullet appears to be standing still. While the Beavers on the field would no doubt report have caught barely a glimpse of Frederick as he flashed by them on his three trips to the end zone, Frederick says that from his perspective, the world simply appeared to stand still.
"It felt like everything just slowed down," he says. "I was relaxed the whole time -- I didn't even get tired. I don't know if it was something in the water we drank that day, or what, but I was having fun."
Frederick finished the year averaging 115 all-purpose yards per game, which accounted for nearly 25 percent of the Huskies' all-purpose yards in 2003. He was responsible for six touchdowns, including five receiving and a punt-return score, was named the team's Co-Offensive MVP at the end of the season, and was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection as a special teams player.
Really, though, understanding his athletic prowess is understanding Frederick only at a first-glance level. The dynamic flash on the field belies a quieter, more relaxed off-field persona.
"He's a real mellow guy," says Husky inside linebacker Joe Lobendahn of his fellow co-captain. "He's really friendly. If you see him walking around, he's always smiling -- he doesn't stop smiling. He's a happy guy, on and off the field."
And why not? Frederick was a rising star long before his arrival at Washington in 2001. Heavily recruited out of Pope John Paul II High School in Lake Worth, Fla., the Parade and USA Today first-team All-American had his pick of a number of major college programs. Most wanted him not only for his football skills, but for his abilities on the basketball court as well, where he was an honorable-mention USA Today All-American, and one of the most sought-after point guards in the country.
After choosing Washington over some of the highest-profile programs in the country -- largely due to the presence at UW of prep teammates and budding stars John Anderson and Rich Alexis -- Frederick arrived in Seattle as one half of the top-rated freshman wide receiver duo in the country, along with Williams.
"My dad wanted me to move away from home, but I wanted to go some place where I wouldn't feel alone," Frederick says. "With John and Rich here, I knew I'd have friends, and it's such a great school -- I knew I could get a good education and have fun playing football."
In his first weeks in the Northwest, however, Frederick endured a much-publicized bout with homesickness, and began to question his decision to travel so far from his family and friends.
"My dad told me to give it a shot," Frederick recalls, "and the coaches told me to just relax -- to make some time to go out, have fun and see the city. I remember thinking to myself, `I started something here, I might as well finish it.'"
Frederick can point to the moment when Seattle finally felt like home. It occurred in a meeting with former special teams coach, and current Montana head coach, Bobby Hauck.
"Going into the first game, against Michigan, he brought me into his office and told me to stay focused," Frederick says. "He said, `Just go out and have fun. Don't worry about anything. Everything's going to be all right.' That was the turning point."
Three years later, Frederick's teammates see a changed man.
"As a freshman, I think he was homesick a lot," said classmate and fellow 2001 recruit Lobendahn. "He wasn't really hanging with the fellas, wasn't always having a good time. Throughout the years, though, he connected with some of the players and he's grown into an All-Pac-10 wide receiver."
"I think he's made almost an 180 degree turn since he first came in," added linebacker Evan Benjamin, also part of Frederick's class of 2001. "Now, he's a Seattle guy. He's playing real well, doing what he needs to do, and he's one of the best on the field. When he gets the ball in his hands, it's just scary."
Husky fans learned quickly not to leave their seats when Frederick was on the field. The freshman with the dreadlocks flowing out from under his helmet took his second-career punt return 87 yards for a touchdown against Idaho, and endeared himself to the Husky faithful with a 14.4 yards-per-return average in 2001, numbers good enough to earn first-team Freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News.
"There's something about returning punts that I love," explains Frederick, who played seven different positions in high school. "You have 21 guys running at you and all you have to do is make one move and everything opens up. I think that's the biggest play of the game."
A year later, his first full season at receiver, Frederick became a double-threat with 45 receptions for 651 yards and two scores, setting the stage for a dynamic 2003 campaign in which he totaled 59 receptions and 831 yards, both figures ranking among the top-10 single-season efforts ever at Washington.
With six regular-season games remaining in 2004, Frederick finds himself sixth on the Huskies' career receptions list and ninth in career receiving yards, and is well within striking distance of the top-three in both categories. He also sits seventh in career all-purpose yards, third in total kick returns (punts and kickoffs) and fifth in career punt-return yardage.
He's a local celebrity, a preseason All-American, and a likely selection in next April's NFL draft. More revealing of Frederick's remarkable transition than all of the statistics, records and accolades, however, is this -- this summer, the man who once questioned his place in Seattle and struggled to bond with teammates, was named by his peers to serve as one of their captains.
"When they called me and let me know I was captain, I was shocked, I didn't know what to say," he says.
Teammate Evan Benjamin says Frederick didn't have to say anything -- his play on the field, and his rigorous preparation and dedication, do all his talking for him.
"He's really earned it," Benjamin says. "He plays hard every single day. He comes to practice ready to go, and the young receivers really follow that and respect that."
So it is that barely three calendar years since he first set foot in Seattle, Frederick finds himself a role model for a young wide receiver corps that includes just two receivers, other than Frederick, with at least five career catches entering 2004.
Frederick recognizes the confused, overwhelmed looks he sees on their faces at times -- he's been there before, and when they turn to him for advice, he knows just what to say.
"I've told them to relax," he says, repeating the advice given to him by Hauck three years ago. "At first, it seems like everything's going so fast, but you have to slow it down. Once you slow it down, you pick things faster and then everything is easy."
Looking back on it all, Frederick regrets nothing about his college experience.
"I'm glad that I came cross-country -- the farthest that you can come," Frederick says.
He certainly has come far, in more ways than one.