Omari Frazier

Sophomore linebacker Omari Frazier and No. 2 UMHB close out the regular season today against McMurry in Abilene.

BELTON — Whether it’s at linebacker or free safety, as a starter or a backup, Omari Frazier’s lone goal is to help Mary Hardin-Baylor win the national championship.

“I was pretty good at my high school. Then I get here and I’m like, ‘Dang. There’s some really good players on this team, so I have to work hard,’” he said. “It was kind frightening, but I took it as a challenge and stepped up.

“You’re coming into a program that’s already good, so it’s like, ‘Where can I fit in and make an impact and help this team?’”

And now that the sophomore has settled into a starting role as a linebacker, it’s going to be tough to bump him down the depth chart. Frazier ranks fourth for the Crusaders in tackles this season with 35 heading into today’s regular-season finale between No. 2 UMHB (9-0, 8-0 American Southwest Conference) and McMurry (2-6, 2-6) in Abilene.

It was a chain of events that pushed Frazier into the starting lineup to begin with.

Reserve linebacker Jackson Sennie was injured early in the year, starting linebacker Mikkah Hackett went down a couple of games later — prompting fellow starter Jacob Mueller to change from one side of the formation to the other — and Frazier was moved out of his backup safety role and closer to the line of scrimmage as a starting linebacker to fill the void left by Mueller’s switch.

“It’s football, so people are going to get banged up. When their backups also get banged up, then you have to move people around. That’s what happened with me,” the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Frazier said. “I was pretty nervous, actually. I was just trying to learn the position as quick as I could. My teammates helped me.”

It also didn’t hurt that Frazier had added some size and muscle since arriving at UMHB.

He got to Belton for the fall of 2020, only to see that season wiped out by the pandemic and replaced by a five-game campaign last spring. That gave him plenty of time to train during his first year at college.

“I think with what happened last year, it was really good for us who were incoming freshmen because we got a whole fall to really learn our positions and get used to everything,” said Frazier, a biology major with aspirations to become a chiropractor. “It took some time. It was a struggle at first trying to balance classes and all the studying for football. It’s still a challenge, but it’s a little bit easier for me now.”

By the time the spring semester was over, Frazier was physically stronger than when he arrived in the fall. That left him with one focus as he headed home to the San Antonio area for the summer — become faster while not sacrificing any strength.

That desire made for a few months of long days.

“The summer was a lot of work. It was mostly working for money as a lifeguard at Schlitterbahn and then working out,” he said. “I would either get a workout in really early in the morning before work, or I would work out afterward.

“I had already started getting stronger last spring — probably the strongest I’d ever been — because we had a pretty strenuous offseason before those five games and after them. So over the summer, I was trying to maintain that strength while I worked to get faster. I think it worked.”

Frazier’s work ethic hasn’t changed this fall, but perhaps his purpose for it has altered a bit. When he looks around the practice field at the large group of seniors toiling to get everything they can out of their final season, he realizes there’s no time for rest.

“We have a lot of seniors on this team. Seeing how hard they work makes you want to work harder because this is their last year,” he said. “I do it for them, and because I want to win every time I step on the football field.”