The Indianapolis Colts have one of the best offensive lines in football.
When you have an All-Pro guard in Quenton Nelson, a Pro Bowl center in Ryan Kelly, and a tackle on the verge of being a Pro Bowler in Braden Smith, it’s hard to argue that statement.
However, the Colts’ offensive line suffered a major blow when longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo announced his retirement this offseason. The team was left searching for the answer that would protect new quarterback Carson Wentz’s blindside both now and hopefully for years to come.
The Colts entered the draft with their eyes set on possibly finding that solution. However, they did not select an offensive lineman until their last pick in the seventh round. While it does not look like that lineman will be the Colts’ left tackle, he may end up being a starter for the team down the line.
The last installment of "Rookie Files" on Horseshoe Huddle takes a look at Will Fries, a player who lives and breathes football and possesses an internal fire to constantly improve and get better.
Commitment to Hard Work
Fries was born on April 4, 1998, in Staten Island, NY. He grew up in Cranford, NJ as a multi-sport athlete playing basketball, football, and track. While he would letter in all three in high school, football became his true calling.
Fries attended Cranford High School and began to make an impact on the football field his sophomore year. While he had the size of an offensive lineman, he was very raw and needed a lot of work on his game if he wanted to play at the next level.
This is when Fries began to work with trainer Peter Kafaf. Kafaf is a part of the Lab Football Academy working with high school and college players, including Nelson as he was a prep star in New Jersey.
Kafaf sparked the fire for Fries’s obsession with technique and helped instill the work ethic within him to continue working on his game whenever he could. This commitment to his craft as an offensive lineman at such an early point in his development helped lead him to great success in high school and beyond.
Fries became an asset at tackle and guard for Cranford. As a senior starting at right guard, Fries helped lead Cranford to a perfect 13-0 record on the way to a state championship in 2015. His hard work had paid off and he was ready to continue his football career at the collegiate level.
Fries was a three-star prospect and ranked as the 11th recruit in the state of New Jersey. The first big-time school to show interest in him was Penn State, whom Fries committed to before his senior season. While other big-time schools such as Clemson, Wisconsin, and Michigan all made their push for Fries, he stuck to his original commitment and became a Nittany Lion.
Versatility on Full Display
One of the things that made Fries such a valuable prospect was his ability to play multiple positions along the offensive line. That continued to be the case at Penn State.
As a redshirt freshman, Fries saw time all over the line, starting a combination of nine games at left tackle (five), right tackle (three), and left guard (one). Proving he could be trusted as a starter, Fries became a permanent fixture for the Nittany Lions as a sophomore, starting four more games at left tackle and seven more at right tackle.
The Penn State coaches believed in Fries and saw the same determination to get better as Kafaf had. Fries started all 13 games at right tackle for the Nittany Lions as a junior and was named honorable mention All-Big Ten.
Heading into his senior year, there was a change as Penn State brought in new offensive line coach Phil Trautwein. While Fries had played right tackle for most of his college career, Trautwein’s philosophy was to get the best five linemen on the field at once. This would require Fries to move inside to right guard.
Fries bought in and did what was needed for the team, as he ended up starting six of Penn State’s nine games at right guard, and the other three at right tackle. The move turned out to be beneficial for him as he was named Second-Team All-Big Ten. He also was named Penn State’s sportsmanship award honoree by the Big Ten conference.
Fries had a very stellar career at Penn State, starting 42 games and showing progression each year. His position versatility, as well as his willingness to do what was best for the team, proved to be major assets and helped him to succeed. Both of these attributes are also qualities that the Colts love their players to possess, making Fries a selection in the seventh round an easy decision.
How Fries Helps the Colts
The Colts love offensive linemen that can play multiple positions, especially when talking about their backups and depth options. Fries fits this mold perfectly with plenty of starting experience all across the line in college.
Fries has good size at 6’6”, 309, and while not an exemplary athlete, he is a good athlete with physical hands and the ability to drive defenders. He has a high football IQ which allows him to think quickly on the field and pick up his assignments. Fries also possesses a little meanness to him on the field, finishing blocks and playing through the whistle.
When talking about his role with the Colts, the team sees potential with Fries. Having experience at both tackle and guard could allow the Colts to use him in a similar role in which they used Joe Haeg a few years ago. Haeg was a solid backup for the Colts that could play all across the offensive line, and that is certainly something that excites the front office.
Fries’ obsession with football and working on his craft will serve him well in the NFL. He showed the ability to progress each year in college and dedication to the game. While not there yet, Fries’ ceiling could be a very high-level backup with the chance to battle for a starting spot along the interior of the offensive line down the road.
While the saying “hard work pays off” might be cliché for some, it has proven to be the case for Fries as he has gone from a high school sophomore with no technique whatsoever, to realizing his dream of playing in the NFL.
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