Travis Frederick appears a different man since the day he walked through the door at Valley Ranch. He trimmed his bushy 8-inch beard for charity last month, and his facial hair hasn’t grown out much since.
But Frederick has grown immensely as an NFL player since his April 27 arrival two days after the Cowboys selected him 31st overall.
“I feel a lot more comfortable now than when I first came in,” Frederick said. “I think right now the focus has changed a little bit from learning the big-picture things and the plays to really focusing on the little things and trying to get better at the technique.
“By getting better at the technique, it makes everything a lot easier. It’s starting to slow down a little bit as far as running up to the ball and seeing things and trying to see the big picture.”
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Some criticized the Cowboys for taking Frederick at 31. Many scouts didn’t consider Frederick a first-round pick. In fact, the Cowboys rated him as a second-rounder, though he was 22nd on their draft board.
The Cowboys, though, need improvement in the interior of their offensive line, and they believe Frederick will be a big help. Pun intended.
Wisconsin listed the 6-foot-4 Frederick at 338 pounds last season. He weighed 312 at the Scouting Combine, and the scale now shows 310, the weight he intends to play at this season.
The NFL’s 32 starting centers averaged 305 pounds last season, based on weights from NFL.com, and only five weighed more than 310. The 325-pound Ryan Cook weighed the most. Cook, acquired by the Cowboys in a trade with the Miami Dolphins before the beginning of last season, started 11 games in place of the injured Phil Costa.
The Cowboys inserted Frederick into the starting lineup the day he arrived. He took first-team snaps ahead of Costa and Cook in the organized team activities and the three-day minicamp, which ended Thursday.
“I always have a competitive mindset,” Costa, who has 20 starts in three seasons, said Thursday. “It’s about what’s best for the team and the O-line and us winning games around here.”
Frederick has made himself at home on the Cowboys’ offense. He has endeared himself to the coaches with his work ethic, his intelligence and his confidence.
“He comes to work every day,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a very smart guy. I think he does have a presence in there physically but also just with the approach that he takes. He’s a confident player. For a young guy, he really seems to grasp what we’re trying to get accomplished in a short period of time.
“The challenge for him is blocking across from him. It’s [Jason] Hatcher. It’s [Jay] Ratliff. It’s some of those guys. That’s a tough [assignment]. I think he’s understanding that. It’s not always going to be perfect. He has to keep battling and keep fighting.”
Frederick is learning the offense quickly, but that’s not surprising. He scored a 34 on the 50-question Wonderlic test at the combine.
“He’s a quick learner,” offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. “You tell him one time, and he gets it. He may err on occasion, but he’s not a repetitive-error guy. He’s not going to make the same mistake twice. He listens; he learns. He understands the situations that he’s in, and he can fix it on the move. He can rectify them pretty quick. So it’s been a real positive from that sense.”
Quarterback Tony Romo, who missed all of the off-season on-field work after having a cyst removed from his back, has yet to take a snap from Frederick. But it’s only a matter of time.
Frederick and his beard aren’t going anywhere. Both will to continue to grow.