Gene Frye loves football. He especially loves watching his sons play.
His oldest son, Chris, 41, played at The Citadel. Second son Ben, 26, played high school ball at Myers Park, and the third, Tim, 25, played first at Army, then Appalachian State. The fourth, Orry, 22, is a senior captain on the offensive line at Appalachian State this year.
Gene's been to games at Auburn and Notre Dame, his two favorite college stadiums. He's seen his sons win national championships for Appalachian.
And now he can look forward to four more years of football.
Sam Frye, the youngest son and a four-year starting center at Providence Day, recently committed to play college football at The Citadel.
"It's been a fun ride," said Gene, who played high school football at Independence. "Being able to watch them play, that's been fun."
Sam Frye, 17, started playing tackle football when he was 7. He played fullback until middle school. His freshman year, he moved from Alexander Graham Middle to Providence Day and became the varsity starting center, where he has stayed ever since.
Frye, at 5-foot-10 and 270 pounds, isn't always the largest guy on the field, but coaches say he works hard enough to make up for it.
"You can challenge him, and when he makes mistakes he's a hard worker," said Providence Day head coach Bruce Hardin. "He's one of those blue-collar athletes. What he doesn't have in height he makes up for in heart and work ethic."
Frye said his focus this year is to make sure he finishes every play.
"After I'm done blocking my guy, I get downfield and try to find someone else to hit," he said. "Just really make the most out of every play, that's what I want to do. And if the whole line does that, then everything is going to work itself out."
That work ethic is something Hardin has seen in other Frye brothers. Hardin coached Tim and Orry at Providence High and Tim at Army. He said the three brothers are similar players.
"They work at being students of the game," said Hardin. "They understand the game of football and what's going on. They're just tireless workers. You open up the doors and say it's a work day and they'll show up."
Sam Frye said he and his brothers don't talk about the specifics of playing football, but they motivate him to get better.
"I never really sat down with them and talked technique or anything like that. My coaches have always done that," he said. "They've always been able to make me tougher and just pushed me."
Sam was named all-conference and all-state last year after helping the Chargers to one of their best seasons in recent history (8-3) before losing in the state semifinals. This year, Frye is one of just two returning starters on the offensive line and the only senior. Coaches have relied on him to take charge of the unit.
"He's a good player and a good team leader," said first-year offensive line coach Damane Duckett, who spent five seasons as a lineman in the NFL. "He's made sure those guys stay in line. ... The first thing I teach is discipline and unity, and to play as a team. (On the) offensive line, we all work as a unit, so if one player is messing up then the whole play is gone."
Led by the offensive line, Providence Day (2-0 through Sept. 15) rushed for 300 yards and four touchdowns in the season opener against Victory Christian. Offensive linemen often don't get credit for performances like that, but it doesn't seem to bother Frye.
"O-linemen aren't really getting that much recognition. That is kind of our recognition, when the running back gets recognized for it," said Frye. "He might be getting looked at by everyone else, but he thanks us, and that means a lot."
Frye said he has known he wanted to go to The Citadel for more than a year. When they offered him a spot last week, he committed almost immediately. He is even excited about the military aspects.
"It's all about leadership. ... Everything's a unit, and that means a lot to me," said Frye.
"I know it's going to be tough, but it's going to be worth it."
Duckett and Hardin both said they thought Frye will perform well at The Citadel. Hardin said he thinks Gene might get to see his son in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
"I would not be surprised if someone texted or called and said Sam's playing a lot early. That wouldn't surprise me at all," said Hardin.
"It's really an honor to coach a young man like that and know he's going to further his education at a great place."