tampabay.com

Shark off to D-II school

Linebacker Cody Fritsch will play for Southwest Baptist in Missouri.

By KELLIE DIXON
Published May 20, 2007


BROOKSVILLE - Cody Fritsch isn't exactly a chatty guy. Apart from providing a little comic relief for his teammates during water breaks last season, the senior linebacker preferred to lead quietly.

Now he's leaving another mark. On Friday, Fritsch signed to play football for Southwest Baptist University, a Division II school in Missouri. The coaching staff there has a combined 20-plus years of NFL playing experience.

Fritsch bounced back from an appendectomy and arthroscopic knee surgery as a junior to record a team-high 166 tackles as a senior. He helped guide the Sharks to an 8-2 regular season, district championship and playoff appearance. Though he primarily focused on linebacker, he also spent time at tight end, long snapper and fullback. The 6-foot-21/2, 230-pounder even kicked an extra point his senior season.

Fritsch's parents - Fred and Pattie - were on hand for the signing Friday. They remembered when Cody was younger. Pattie thought he would be a baseball player, but in the seventh grade he discovered his true love - playing football.

He still can't really explain why he loves it.

"I just love it, " Cody said Friday.

As a middle schooler, he gave up baseball, inline roller hockey and the rest to focus on football. Since he has grown in strength and knowledge thanks to time spent in the weightroom and on the football field.

"It's exciting to see him go from not knowing anything about football to being one of the main football players on the team, " Fred Fritsch said.

Nature Coast coach Jamie Joyner said it's fun to watch Cody play.

"It's like organized chaos, " Joyner said. "He's just an intense football player. He doesn't say much. He just leads by example."

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or 352 544-9480.