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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Watch out for Fraser at Arizona

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

A lot of eyes are on Arizona senior center Keoki Fraser.

Arizona's Keoki Fraser, a 2000 Kailua High grad from Waimanalo, truly is the center of attention as he prepares for his senior season.

Arizona Athletics Photography

The nation is watching after he was placed on the preseason Outland Trophy watch list. His coaches are watching as he assumes a leadership role. His parents are watching as becomes the first in his family to graduate from a four-year university.

But just as important, the kids from Waimanalo are watching.

"I have a lot of young cousins, and being from Waimanalo a lot of neighbors who kind of look up to me because I'm going to college and playing football," the 2000 graduate of Kailua said.

Fraser, who is 6 feet 3 and 295 pounds, says it's an honor to be a candidate for the Outland Trophy, presented to the top interior lineman in college football on either side of the ball.

"It's nice and everything, but the bottom line is that you have to go out there every week and win," he says.

Last season Fraser was a Pac-10 honorable mention selection. He has started 29 games, including 23 in a row.

"He's a great person and works hard," Arizona offensive line coach Eric Wolford said. "He makes a lot of calls as far as what we're going to do up front."

Fraser earned a starting position in the middle of his redshirt freshman year, in a game against Oregon.

"It was kind of a big deal," he said. "It was a big game. I didn't expect to start. Someone got hurt. They asked me to step up and I did."

He said he still feels the same nervous excitement before every game, although he is one of the most experienced linemen Arizona has.

"It's still very exciting. Every time you get butterflies before the game starts, but you just try and get the job done," he said.

Wolford, who called Fraser "a tremendous athlete," said it is that attitude that has propelled Fraser into a leadership role for the Wildcats.

"I expect him to lead us as a group and help develop some of the other guys," Wolford said. "He's helped us make other guys accountable because he's used to doing that all the time."

Fraser said throughout the years away from home and family he's learned to be accountable for his actions.

"Not only playing football, but going to school as well," he said. "It has been a challenge, but also a good experience."

This December he will become the first member of his family to graduate from a four-year university. His older brother, Keoni, a former member of the Arizona football team, is attending a junior college in Arizona to complete his studies.

"It feels good, so I can come back and share the experience with my family," said Fraser, who said if a career in the NFL doesn't work out, he would like to be a high school teacher and football coach, preferably at his alma mater, Kailua High. "It is so critical to have a bachelor's degree nowadays in order to get a job."

Wolford said Fraser is a student of the game as well.

"He studies it, he knows it as well as coaches do," Wolford said. "He has a good understanding of what it takes up front to be successful."

Fraser, a sociology major, said the reason he chose to attend Arizona was because Keoni, a defensive lineman, was there. But the first year Fraser was at Arizona, 14-year head coach Dick Tomey, also a former University of Hawai'i coach, resigned.

Fraser said making that adjustment helped him last year when Arizona coach John Mackovic was fired five games into the season. Mike Stoops, the younger brother of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, was hired in November.

"It was very exciting, there was a lot of buzz," Fraser said. "The first time it was a lot harder because I was a freshman. This time around, being that I'm a senior and I've been through it already, it's sort of been business as usual."

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.