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Frost not fazed by pressure

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  • Frost not fazed by pressure

    good article, of course any article that mentions Chris Gardocki is a good one in my book...sounds like Frosty has his head on straight going into the preseason and I wish him the best of luck. if he can catch on as the browns punter and Nate Kaeding would falter, then we'd have two specialists in the NFL as Mackenzie Hoambrecker is up against the former Iowa all-american for the Chargers kicking duties.....


    Frost not fazed by pressure
    By Zac Jackson, Staff Writer
    August 13, 2004

    There he was, laughing and joking, holding a captive audience, bouncing among the subjects of punting and competition and everyday life.

    There he was, stopping himself before the answers to the hangtime and ball spin questions became too technical, adding a wisecrack at the appropriate time, taking full blame for any and all mistakes - even the ones that really weren't his fault.

    There he was, handling himself like a true professional, like a consummate veteran, living up to every positive word that's ever been used to describe Chris Gardocki.

    Except this wasn't Gardocki. This was Derrick Frost.

    Derrick Who? In a lot of ways, he's not surprised you'd ask.

    The first time the Browns punt in Saturday's preseason opener, Frost, 23, will handle the chore. And for thousands of Browns fans watching on TV, reality will sink in: Gardocki, the only punter the team has had since 1999 (and a pretty good one at that) is gone to Pittsburgh.

    Frost, who was signed last November to the active roster but was inactive on game days, is well aware that Gardocki was twice voted Browns' MVP, has never had a punt blocked, and was very popular among Browns players and fans alike.

    Frost knows he has big shoes to fill. And he's convinced the best way to step out of Gardocki's shadow is not to try to be Chris Gardocki.

    It's to just be Derrick Frost.

    "I know this is a business," Frost said. "I know that (Gardocki) is a great punter and a professional. I had a great conversation with him, actually, when I signed here. He was great to me.

    "Honestly, I don't worry about (Gardocki's shadow). But I feel like everybody else does."

    Frost figures he's got more than enough to worry about himself. He says he "has a good feeling" that he'll win the Browns job, but knows nothing is set in stone. Since April, he's been in a competition with Ryan Dutton to win the Browns' punting job. Frost has a leg up (no pun intended) but the stakes are as high as they've ever been.

    The regular season starts in four weeks. Saturday, the lights are on and the competition is real for the first time.

    "I don't have any extra nerves for the first preseason game," Frost said. "I have to take every kick the same. I can't control outside factors. I just do the best I can and try to impress the coaches every day."

    Frost handled the punting chores for two and a half seasons at Division I-AA Northern Iowa, but said he didn't start taking punting seriously until later in his career. When his senior season was over, his father acted as his agent and put together a highlight tape and sent it to all 32 NFL teams.

    "Not a single agent" wanted Frost, but eight teams attempted to sign him as a free agent the day after the 2003 draft. Frost and his father chose Philadelphia, but his stint with Eagles lasted just two days.

    He was claimed on the waiver wire by the Browns and Baltimore, and was awarded to the Ravens. He went with Baltimore with little chance of beating out incumbent punter Dave Zastudil, a Cleveland native and fourth-round draft pick in 2002, but figured he'd make the most of the experience.

    Frost punted for Baltimore in the preseason last year and performed well, averaging 42.5 yards per kick on 23 punts, landing eight inside the 20 and booming one kick more than 50 yards in each of the three games he participated in.

    But it was three and out. By the time the Ravens played their preseason finale against the Giants, Zastudil had recovered from his hamstring injury and returned to action.

    For the second time in five months, Frost was waived. The NFL regular season began, and he went back to Northern Iowa to complete his degree.

    "Last fall I think I was set back by not being with a team," Frost said. "That was the first time since I started playing football that I wasn't with a team during the season. I don't think I actually took a step back but I was taking steps in the wrong direction."

    The Browns, knowing Gardocki would be a free agent with a hefty price tag at the end of the season, stayed in contact. Frost came to Cleveland, cleaned up his habits under the tutelage of special teams coach Jerry Rosburg, and began preparing to become Gardocki's eventual successor.

    "(Frost) seems to have a good head on his shoulders, and that's one thing that separates guys," Browns kicker Phil Dawson said. "There are a bunch of guys who can go to a kicking camp and kick the ball. Only a few have what it takes to handle the pressure and the ups and downs. He's got a long way to go, but he knows that.

    "You've got to believe in yourself. When you're a young kicker in this league, especially an undrafted one like I was and like he is, nobody gives you the benefit of the doubt. You've got to earn everything. And I think he'll do that."

    When Frost needs guidance, he has Dawson. He can also rely on long snapper Ryan Pontbriand, who a year ago was a lot like Frost-an unknown, unheralded 23-year-old kid taking over a thankless job from an established and well respected veteran in Ryan Kuehl.

    Dawson and Pontbriand speak highly of Frost and the friendship the trio has forged. But both know that if Frost doesn't perform Saturday and in the rest of the preseason games, all that he's done so far will matter little.

    "He's going to have to get used to the speed (of a game)," Pontbriand said. "And everybody's mentality can get you excited on game night. The season is different from the preseason, which is different from the scrimmage. So it's going to continue to increase."

    "You can't have a bad day," Dawson said. "Derrick understands that - all kickers do. One thing I've noticed about Derrick is when the pressure's on, he seems to do better. I'm excited and I know he is, too."