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Editor's note: This is the first in a three-part series on student-athlete family ties.
By Josh Kendall
ATHENS, Georgia – Ty Frix was a football-crazy 11-year-old about to enter the seventh grade at a new school, and, by his best recollection, was “like 4-foot-11 and 100 pounds.”
“My dad took me out in the yard and said, ‘All right, son, I’m going to teach you how to do something, and maybe it’ll get you some playing time some day,’ ” Frix said.
So Mitch Frix began to tutor his son on the art of long-snapping. It was a skill that had earned Mitch Frix a spot on the University of Georgia football team and two SEC championship rings, and that day set in motion a legacy that lives on today on the Bulldogs roster.
Mitch Frix snapped to former Georgia All-American place-kicker Kevin Butler in 1981 and 1982, and Ty now snaps to Kevin Butler’s son Drew, the Bulldogs’ All-American punter.
“It’s pretty wild considering the legacy our fathers left behind,” Drew Butler said. “It’s really cool.”
While receiving Ty Frix’s snaps last season, Butler led the nation by averaging 48.1 yards per punt and won the Ray Guy Award, which goes annually to the nation’s top punter.
“From a punting standpoint, having a good snapper is huge,” Butler said. “He’s going to be on the same spot at the same time. He may have a bad snap every once in a while, but he’ll bounce back. He’s mentally strong.”
Frix also snaps on Georgia’s field goal attempts, for which Butler holds.
“As a holder, he makes my job a lot easier,” Butler said. “He’s putting the laces right where they need to be every time.”
Ty Frix took quickly to long-snapping, his father said, and it did get him a spot on the Calhoun Middle School team that very first year.
“They had nobody else who could snap, so they threw me in there,” Ty Frix said.
He eventually earned time at tight end and middle linebacker at Calhoun High School and served as Calhoun’s backup quarterback.
“The best thing I ever did for my snapping was play quarterback, just throwing every day, strengthening my arm, getting that spiral down,” he said. “It wasn’t until my junior year that I thought I had a chance to go play football somewhere.”
That’s about the time Mitch Frix began to see what was coming, as well. Drew Butler, a junior at Georgia, committed to the Bulldogs about the same time Georgia began to show interest in having Ty, a sophomore, join the team as a preferred walk-on, Mitch Frix said. (Ty Frix earned a scholarship this spring.)
“That’s when it first dawned on me that Drew and Ty might be playing together,” Mitch Frix said. “It’s really fun. It’s enjoyable because of stuff that Kevin and I went through.”
Both sons plan to follow in their fathers’ footsteps. Kevin Butler played 14 seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears. Drew Butler, a junior, is expected to get a chance to join an NFL team when his Georgia career is done.
Mitch Frix as a Georgia player
Mitch Frix went on to become an orthopedic surgeon, and Ty, a sophomore who is majoring in biomedical engineering, already has dreams of following him.
“I go in and operate with my dad every chance I get,” Ty Frix said. “I love it.”
For now, though, the sons are happy right where they are, and their fathers and delighted to relive a little bit of the glory days together.
“Kevin’s just like he was when we played together, always giving credit to other people,” Mitch Frix said. “I’ll see him after a game, and Drew will have an outstanding game. I’ll see Kevin after the game sand say, ‘Wow, Drew played great,’ and he’ll say, ‘Ty did all the work. He couldn’t have done it without all those snaps being right there on time.’ ”
Josh Kendall is a freelance writer based in Georgia.