Tyler Frederick smiles from ear to ear when asked about his nickname because he’s had no choice but to get used to it.
Heck, he doesn’t even remember the last time a teammate called him “Tyler.”
The story dates to the Highland two-way lineman’s elementary school days. Apparently showing no regard for Frederick’s feelings — not that his easygoing personality cared — his classmates began calling him “Chuck” because of his pudgy build.
In reality, “Chuck” has nothing to do with pop culture legend Chuck Norris. It instead has everything to do with those annoying bowling-ball-sized rodents that are best known around these parts as frequent roadkill victims.
“When I was younger, I did have a lot of hair on my head,” Frederick said. “When I shaved it off, I had a baby face — I still do — and everyone said I looked like a woodchuck. Originally, it was ‘Ground Chuck,’ and then it shortened down to ‘Chuck.’
“It’s cool. It really does suit me well.”
All visual comparisons aside, “Chuck” describes Frederick on the gridiron as well. The lone sophomore in the Hornets’ starting lineup has been making holes all season, though his path to becoming the starting right guard involved on-the-job-training as Highland (12-0) heads into tonight’s Division II, Region 4 championship game against Avon (12-0).
For his entire football life up until August, Frederick, who also has 16 tackles and two tackles for loss as a defensive tackle, was used to lugging the pigskin and not making sure others could. He was groomed to be a devastating lead blocker and goal-line specialist as a fullback in Highland’s I-formation system.
Personnel changes over the past two-plus years necessitated Frederick’s move. The fullback is all-but-extinct because Highland has transitioned to a read-option spread offense.
Frederick still gets to relive his glory days from time to time — he has two touchdowns as the up-man in the Hornets’ fullhouse backfield in goal-line situations — but has embraced the O-line with open arms.
“I’ve never played offensive line in my life, so it’s been a good experience for me,” he said. “Coach (Nate) Howard taught me everything I know. It’s been a great year.
“When I’m not carrying the ball it’s a big difference, but there are a lot of similarities.”
With a full-blown mentorship from 6-4, 280-pound senior, fellow guard and buddy Myles Houska, Frederick’s hard-nosed attitude and intelligence have been pleasant surprises for an offensive that is still posting video game numbers.
Frederick’s quick feet from playing fullback make him a perfect fit in the running game, be it pulling and kicking out a linebacker or using zone blocking principles when Highland runs the read option.
His intelligence comes into play when reading defenses — the Hornets are one of the few high school teams that have varying responsibilities for linemen based on formations — as well as helping dual-threat quarterback Bruce Kinsey remain upright.
The offensive line of guards Frederick and Houska, tackles Tyler Gienger and Michael Doak and center Tanner Ramey has filled all those roles well. The rushing attack averages 244.9 yards per game — currently the 10th-best mark in the school’s illustrious history on the ground — while Kinsey has broken his own school record for passing and has been sacked just 15 times.
“We knew with the kind of stuff we were going to do that there really wasn’t a spot for him (at fullback),” coach Tom Lombardo said. “So, he graciously accepted being moved to the line. … Offensively, for never putting his hand down and playing in there, he’s adapted really well. He’s an excellent blocker and excellent player.”
Generally on high-level football teams, sophomores don’t start due to not being ready physically, but the Hornets have gotten bang for their buck from “Chuck.”
“We tell them who they have to block, how they have to block and say, ‘Sick ’em. Don’t think about anything after that,”’ Lombardo said. “Once he got repping that over and over again, he really jelled.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.