Former LHS lineman making a mark

Carson-Newman University offensive lineman Cole Fritts, right, and assistant offensive line coach Tony Ierulli stand in the end zone of the stadium. Fritts graduated from Loudon High School in 2016 and was a two-year starter for the Redskins.

A former Loudon High School football star is finally getting an opportunity to shine on the gridiron at the collegiate level.

Cole Fritts is a junior offensive lineman at Carson-Newman University and will be a pivotal piece for the Eagles’ potent veer option attack.

The Eagles kicked off the season Sept. 5 with a 20-13 win over the University of West Florida.

“It started off going pretty good during fall camp,” Fritts said. “I had to battle through some injuries there for a little while, but I’m back and doing good now.”

Assistant offensive line coach Tony Ierulli praised Fritts for his hard work and dedication in the offseason to become a starting lineman.

“He’s slowly moved his way up the depth chart, and now he’s thrown into a position where he’ll be seeing significant playing time during the season,” Ierulli said. “He’s a big 300-pound guy that just kind of moves when he’s blocking. Our offensive linemen have to be able to move their feet, getting off the ball and staying low and keeping our shoulder pads down low. We need to have very aggressive offensive linemen coming off the ball, and I think that’s what pulled me to Cole. The way he’s developed his body through our lifting program and our conditioning program, it’s just a good fit for us right now with him.”

Fritts didn’t see action his first two seasons at Carson-Newman, but took advantage of the time to develop in practice and in the weight room.

“My first two years here were more of a backup role,” he said. “This year, I guess I’ve kind of made that jump where I’m in position to get more playing time. I’ve had to really work hard and make myself get in the weight room, work on getting stronger, faster, quicker — everything you kind of need to be able to play. I’ve done that and just studying the playbook, that’s been one of the biggest things.”

Fritts was a two-year starter for Loudon and played a key role in helping the Redskins reach the Class 4A semifinals in 2014.

“It was a lot of fun playing for Coach (Jeff) Harig at Loudon High School,” Fritts said. “Obviously, my junior year we went 13-1 and were pretty good that year, so that was quite a bit of fun.”

LHS head football coach Jeff Harig knew Fritts was a special player when he first met him.

“Cole is one of those guys you love to coach because he was self-motivated, he loved the work that it took to be a good football player and he had the discipline to do it over and over again,” Harig said. “Everything Cole Fritts is is self-made. He’s a weight-room warrior, so he loves working out. He did a great job with that. I can remember we put him into action as a starting right tackle in 2014, and what he brought then was intelligence and the ability to master what he had to do as a player. He also brought a toughness, brought a work ethic and those kinds of kids are why you coach.

“For me, it’s very rewarding to see him get out there and be successful as a junior, carry that over into his senior year and have an opportunity to go play at the next level,” he added. “Talking with the Carson-Newman coaches, the very things I described are why they love him.”

Several colleges took notice of Fritts in high school, and that’s when Ierulli pushed hard to sign him due to his versatility and size.

“He was athletic as an offensive lineman, he could use his feet,” Ierulli said. “He had a very good body frame, so I knew that he could gain some weight and some strength going through our lifting program. Most of all, he was a very smart, really sharp young man. I think his football knowledge was really good and really impressed me as a senior coming out of high school. I was really excited signing him to Carson-Newman.”

With three years under his belt, Fritts is poised for a breakout season and will be valuable in the Eagles’ quest for a South Atlantic Conference championship.

“I think from a team standpoint, one of our goals is definitely to make a deep playoff run,” Fritts said. “I think that we have the pieces there to do so, and I think anything less than that will be unacceptable.”