Zone Read: Ralph Frias Unplugged

Arizona Sports News online

Ralph Frias is on the move.

The big man from a small town in Arizona has found a new football home in the still snow-capped mountains of Utah.

In this “Zone Read,” we catch up with the 2018 Safford High School 3-star offensive lineman who is excited for his next football chapter at Utah State after five years at Arizona State.

The 6-foot-7, 305-pounder, who has two years left of eligibility, sat down with us to discuss a myriad of topics, as well as take a little stroll down memory lane from his prep days in southern Arizona.

Does it seem like forever ago since you graduated from Safford? “It feels like yesterday. I’m not going to lie to you. I still look back to it and I’m baffled that was four or five years ago. Now we’re in 2023. I can’t believe COVID was three years ago. Time is flying.”

We talked when you were in high school about how recognizable you were in your hometown. Now that you’re a Division I football player, are you approached even more? “I mean, yes (laughing). It’s still a small town feel. You’re recognized everywhere. Population 10,000. It’s the same ole’ folks. Small stores. Nothing has drastically changed. It’s always good to be home. To get that feel to get out of the big city. It’s a culture shock coming from a small town to Scottsdale and Tempe. So, of course, you come back and you just get that small town feel. To catch up with the folk and everything. It’s a good deal.”

How difficult was it for you to leave ASU and opt to enter the transfer portal? “It was really difficult. I had to give it some thought and just lay out what I wanted to accomplish. Going into the NFL, of course, is every kid’s dream. I want to make that a reality. But I was in Tempe, going on five years. It was like my hometown. I got comfortable with it. The coaches, the field, the camaraderie. Everything ASU has to offer. I did not want to leave that but when it comes to making the best decision for myself and giving myself a better opportunity elsewhere, I had to look at it from that perspective. But it was hard, man. It really was. I didn’t want to leave ASU. But the cool thing was, I didn’t leave with a bad taste in my mouth. Everybody was supportive of my decision. They wanted nothing but the best for me. It was tough, but I feel like I made the right decision.”

On the field, it was quite a ride for you. You redshirted, then played a bunch, then played a little, then sat out a year, and eventually entered the transfer portal. How would you describe your playing experience with the Sun Devils? “On the field, I was so grateful to be a Sun Devil, and for the opportunities provided by Herm Edwards, and Coach [Kenny] Dillingham. They really provided me with a lot of opportunities to showcase my skills. Just being that guy to jump in a tackle, or whatever it may be. My career was kind of a rollercoaster. Went from a redshirt freshman, to a COVID year where we only played four games. At the time, it was such a limited opportunity. Then, going into 2021, I had to step away for a personal health issue that I had to deal with. That was something that sort of just took over, and it was something I couldn’t control…then I just decided to enter the portal to better myself, as well as show what I can do. Just having that opportunity. I think I made a good choice [to transfer].”

Catch me up on school? “So, I have two degrees [from ASU]. I finished with an Interdisciplinary Studies degree in 2021, and recently graduated with my Master’s in Organizational Leadership this last spring in 2023. I went into all this knowing, if all else fails, I have these two degrees to fall back on (laughing).”

If football in the future doesn’t work out, what’s the plan with those two degrees? “Right now, I’m trying to get into sports management. I would love to still be in the [football] building. Maybe as a Director of Player Personnel or possibly a Director of Operations – wherever that may take me. Say [playing] football doesn’t work out, I want to get into coaching. I’d love to be a GA (Graduate Assistant). It just all depends. I love the game. I’ve learned so much from it over the years. I’d just love to still be a part of it.”

What made Utah State the right fit for you? “Utah State gave me the small town vibe. Logan has so much to offer. Still gives me that city feel. They’ve got a Chipotle out here. We don’t have that in Safford (laughing). I don’t even know why I’m even saying that now! It’s a town of close to 100,000 people. It’s only an hour from Salt Lake City. There’s a lot to do out here, as well. When they hosted me on my official visit, they took me skeet shooting, and there’s fly fishing opportunities. I don’t fly fish (laughing) but hopefully one day I will. [On the field], the opportunities are there. In talking with head coach [Blake] Anderson, just what they want from me, as well as what I want for myself. It all lines up. It’s a great opportunity for me to come up here and showcase [my skills].”

Did you know when you took your official visit that this was the best program for you? “Honestly, as that time, my recruitment was still open, but during the official visit it all just felt good. The people were all so kind. Just talking to the coaches and matching up their goals with mine and where I see myself. Getting a good feel for Logan, Utah. It’s a great place out here. It’s beautiful. There’s still snow on the mountains. It’s a cool 50 degrees in the mornings. The visit was awesome. I flew back to Arizona and just felt that visit. I just took it from there.”

I know Cole Motes, who went to Thatcher High School, is also an offensive lineman at Utah State. Did you talk to him at all when you were in the portal and weighing all your options? “When I did hit the portal, he hit me up on Twitter just to wish me the best. Obviously, when Coach Bassett [Utah State Offensive Line Coach Cooper Bassett] reached out, he mentioned Cole. He was talking about what he wanted in an offensive line and pretty much told me straight up how things would be. So, I hit up Cole and he told me the ins and outs. He told me all that Logan has to offer and the situation they’re in, being down a couple of offensive linemen, especially from last year. He said I’d be a great fit here, and they’d love to have me. Obviously, he went to our rival high school growing up but we’re here for the same goal. At the end of the day, we want to win championships.”

It seems everyone I talk to has a different experience when they enter the portal. Was it exciting or stressful for you to be, essentially, re-recruited? “I just went into it head first…yes, being recruited again. Starting all over. I was just being more knowledgeable about what to expect in college recruiting and the ins and outs of coaches coming and going. It’s a business for them and like, ‘Where will they end up next?’ Just getting that feel. There were some prior teammates who I was close to, as well. I reached out to them to talk about their process in the portal and everything. At the end of the day, it was a difficult decision [to enter the portal]. but I wanted to do what was best for me.”

You’re in Logan now. Take us through what coming weeks will look like for you leading up to fall camp. “Camp is going to be starting in the next month or so, I believe. Right now I’m just getting ready for workouts tomorrow. I’m still trying to get the schedule down for everything. I moved up here on the 20th [of May]. 12-hour drive. It was pretty hectic, but we got through it. Before you know it, we’ll be padded up in fall camp and getting ready for Iowa [Utah State’s season opener].”