It's been more than three years since Trevor Frain strapped on the pads for the first time as a Creston/Orient-Macksburg football player.
The 5-foot-10, 150-pounder was dominating at the freshman end of the field, so his father, assistant coach Darrell Frain, moved his son to the varsity and into the Oklahoma drill. This version had two linemen, a linebacker and a running back. Frain, the linebacker, flew into the backfield and smacked the running back to the ground.
At that point, varsity playing time went from being a pipe dream to a realistic goal.
“That's when I knew I had a chance,” he said.
Frain gradually earned more varsity snaps, and became a starting linebacker in the seventh game of that freshman year. Now at 6-foot and 195, he has been the team's leading tackler the past three seasons and will lead Creston (6-2, 3-2) into Friday's key Class 3-A, District 1 game at Council Bluffs Lewis Central (3-5, 3-2).
Frain's head coach, Brian Morrison, knows a thing or two about linebacker play. He earned first-team all-Southwest Iowa honors at the position at Lewis Central in 1993 and went on to a standout career at that spot at Wayne State. He coaches the inside linebackers at Creston.
“I've seen — in college, in high school, in the area — some good kids that go on to play at different levels,” Morrison said. “He's as good as it gets. He's a competitor, just a tremendous linebacker.”
Frain has enjoyed the physical aspect of the game since he started playing tackle football in sixth grade. He remembers another Oklahoma drill, this time a 1-on-1 version, during a practice in which the varsity players were present. His hard-hitting style grabbed the attention of the team's star quarterback at that time, G.G. Harris.
“He was like, 'You are going to be a linebacker and a fullback,'” Frain said. “I didn't even know what that meant.”
He soon found out. When he reached high school and was given practice reps as a ninth-grader, he knew many assumed it was only because his father was an assistant.
“I'm sure there were a lot of guys that hated me,” he said. “I was living the dream. I just remember flying around every day, just trying to get some respect from everybody.”
He's still flying around. And the respect hasn't wavered. He was first-team all-state, first-team All-Western Iowa and first-team all-district last year. As a sophomore, he earned second-team All-WI and first-team all-district honors.
This season, he's racked up 26 solo tackles and 86 assists, which is nearly 50 more tackles than anyone else on the team.
“He's a mainstay,'' Morrison said. “Our kids rely on him, and that's not a joke. He'll literally put the defense on his back.''
Frain, who finished fourth in Class 2-A at 160 pounds at the state wrestling meet last year, is on the small side for a college linebacker. Morrison said Frain ran a 4.72 40 on junior day at Iowa State. He's getting attention from FBS, FCS and NCAA Division II schools on down. Morrison sees him as a weakside (or Will) linebacker in a 4-3 scheme at the college level.
“No matter where he goes, he'll play,'' he said.
Despite all the individual accolades, the Creston coach said, they aren't his star defender's concern.
“Perfect example of a kid you'd want to have on your team,'' he said. “He's soft-spoken, leads by example. He's very modest. Doesn't say anything about himself. He's all about the team. Wants the team to do well.''
Creston has a solid shot at hosting a first-round playoff game with a win over Lewis Central on Friday. The Panthers will have to contain standout quarterback Austin Simmons (1,426 passing yards, team-leading 420 rushing yards) to do so.
“He's a special player, and they have kids across the board that are really good athletes,” Morrison said. “To defend Simmons is unique, because he's good. He's going to get his yards, there's no doubt about it. We just don't want the big plays.”
Regardless of the college he chooses, it will be hard to top high school Friday nights for Frain, playing for his hometown with his father on the sideline.
“Nothing else compares to it,” he said. “It's such a great feeling, when he is proud of me after a good play or something. It's pretty sweet.”
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