'Underrated Cam': KIPP Columbus' Cameron Frazier gets Michigan's attention without Ohio State offer

Colin Gay
The Columbus Dispatch

When James Lee talks about Cameron Frazier, he starts with who he is off the field.

To the KIPP Columbus football coach, Frazier is personable, the kind of person who can get along with everyone. He is respectful, shy and cares about his family. He’s someone who does all the right things. 

On the football field, though, Frazier is completely different. He's mean, nasty, aggressive, competitive, aiming to win at any cost no matter where he is on the field. 

Frazier is someone who continues to play to be noticed. 

“I think if you go watch this young man play, you’re going to be like, ‘There’s no way he shouldn’t be a national recruit,’ ” Lee said. 

KIPP Columbus junior Cameron Frazier had 1,500 all-purpose yards last season. He is rated as a three-star athlete and is being recruited mostly as a defensive back.

Frazier has embraced the persona of “Underrated Cam,” his Instagram username, getting the attention of major programs across the country such as Kentucky, Michigan and Michigan State mostly as a defensive back, but not the one in his own backyard. 

And after a junior season in which he served as KIPP’s main playmaker on offense and defense, Frazier aims to prove he’s worth attention in the 2024 class. 

“Growing up, a lot of people didn’t recognize me,” Frazier said. “I just felt I wasn’t known enough. I didn’t want to be known or ‘Mr. Famous,’ but I just wasn’t getting the attention everybody else was getting. It was like, ‘I’m better than these people, but I’m just going to be humble and call myself underrated.’ 

“I want me to surprise people.” 

Cameron Frazier 'sets the tone' at KIPP Columbus

Latasha Gripper remembers the first time her son stepped on the football field.

He put up “amazing numbers," collecting MVP trophies while parents asked how old he was from as early as age 6. 

“Seventy-five pound little league, he was out here flipping in the end zone, running for 100-yard touchdowns,” Gripper said. “He was doing amazing things.” 

Ohio State football:Buckeyes transfer portal tracker: Which players are leaving?

To people around Gripper, Frazier wasn’t the kind of player who fit the mold of KIPP Columbus, a team that was coming off a two-win season prior to his freshman season. 

But Gripper saw an opportunity for her son to change the narrative for a team. 

“He’s going to set the tone at KIPP,” Gripper said. “And what did Cameron do? He came to KIPP, started winning football games, started getting scholarship offers. And now everybody goes, ‘That’s underrated Cam right there.’ ” 

Lee saw that mentality from the moment Frazier arrived.

“He’s covering guys who are going Division I,” Lee said. “No matter how talented you are … covering a Division I athlete as a freshman who has four years on you, you’re going to lose, or you should lose. And he was right there with them. He was competing, gave up a touchdown one play and then the very next possession, caught an interception.” 

Lee saw a player who wouldn’t stop, either, regularly playing two quarters of varsity football Friday night as a freshman before playing an entire junior varsity game Saturday.

All Lee needed was Frazier to have the ball in his hands, no matter if it was at quarterback, running back or wide receiver, averaging more than 100 all-purpose yards per game as a sophomore and junior, or as an “aggressive” defensive back who was first-team All-Ohio at the position. 

Frazier, who is 5 feet 11, 160 pounds, is a three-star athlete according to 247Sports composite rankings and the No. 20 prospect from Ohio in the 2024 class.

In the past two seasons, Frazier has helped the Jaguars to 12 wins in 22 games.

“He always thought he would be good,” Lee said. “I don’t think he ever thought he would get to this level.” 

'If it comes, it comes'

For KIPP, a player like Frazier was new. He earned the first offer in school history when Toledo offered him and two of his teammates in January 2022. Since then, Frazier has gotten offers from programs such as Kentucky, Michigan State, Michigan and Pittsburgh − schools he calls the leaders in his recruitment. 

Frazier said he was surprised when Michigan offered him, but that co-defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale told him he liked how physical he played in coverage, his ability to make open-field tackles and play “hawk coverage” to the ball. 

Ohio State has not made that step with Frazier. 

“We just have to build our relationship a little better,” Frazier said of the Buckeyes, saying cornerbacks coach Tim Walton has given him an open invitation to visit spring practices. “Make sure they know me more, I know the coaches, I feel more comfortable around them, make sure they feel comfortable with me.”

Lee said Frazier likes Ohio State but is unsure where he is on the program's recruiting board. Lee knows Ohio State is more careful with in-state recruits, knowing they are more likely to “commit on the spot.” He said the Buckeyes coaches have to make sure an Ohio player is exactly who they want.

This mentality is something Ohio State coach Ryan Day and the rest of the staff has been open and transparent about to Lee.

“I don’t think Ohio State necessarily is against recruiting Ohio players,” Lee said. “I just believe Ohio State’s, Ryan Day’s job is to find the best possible players at every position regardless of where they are at.

"Just because he comes from Ohio, that does not mean he should get that scholarship offer just because he wants to go to Ohio State.” 

Gripper has seen this through her son’s recruiting process, coming in thinking that Ohio State would recruit more Columbus players because of proximity. Instead, she sees a program that could lose a player who lives 15 minutes away. 

"That’s all it is now: If it comes, it comes,” Gripper said of Frazier earning an Ohio State offer. “But at this point, I think he’s leaning more toward Michigan now. When they played Michigan, he was going for Michigan.” 

'The Jermaine Mathews type of trajectory'

Lee feels Frazier deserves an Ohio State offer. 

This summer, the KIPP Columbus coach expects Frazier to stand out on the camp circuit, going to southern schools such as Alabama and Auburn to show what he can do, similar to a member of Ohio State’s 2023 class. 

“I think he’s going to be in the Jermaine Mathews type of trajectory,” Lee said. “Like how Jermaine camped at Ohio State, earned the offer, then went to LSU, then went to all these other places, earned their offers and then made a decision.” 

As Frazier prepares for his senior high school football season, all his mother wants her son to remember is to stay humble, to keep his head focused on what he’s supposed to do and not let doubters deter him from getting to the stage he knows he can play at. 

“At the end of the day, you worry about Cameron, and that’s it,” Gripper said. 

Frazier says he’s focused on is getting bigger, faster and stronger, preparing to take KIPP football farther than it’s ever been, continuing with the confidence he’s carried since he started playing football. 

Lee says the best is yet to come for Frazier. 

“I think Cam Frazier is a kid that any college program will be lucky to have, and any college program should be worried about going against him,” Lee said. “By not offering Cam, you’re saying ‘We’re comfortable playing against you.’ And I feel like that’s a very, very bold statement to make.”