Leslie Frazier: NFL coach continues SWAC tradition

By MAX EDISON
Defender

The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) has long been known as the small college conference that produces titans in the NFL.
Throughout the 90-year history of the conference, the names, just in recent history, roll off like a who’s who of NFL stars. They include Michael Strahan, Jerry Rice, Doug Williams, Walter Payton and Steve McNair, just to name a few. While the list of superstars is illustrious, a new element has been added to that history – the SWAC’s first NFL head coach, Leslie Frazier, an Alcorn Brave who debuts this season as the main man for the Minnesota Vikings.
Frazier, who succeeded Mike Tomlin as defensive coordinator of the Vikings, was elevated to the top spot during the off-season after serving as interim head coach for the final six games of the 2010 season.

He earned a Super Bowl ring as a starting cornerback with the 1985 Chicago Bears. He was an All-American cornerback at Alcorn teaming with Roynell Young (Philadelphia Eagles) to form one of the most dominant corner tandems in college football.

After stints that saw him serve as an assistant coach in Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, Frazier is now a head coach and he brings that experience to the sideline.

“I’ve been around a lot of successful situations, going back to my days at Alcorn State University with Merino (the Godfather) Casem as my head coach,” Frazier recalled. “I’ve been around a lot of great coaches. I played for Mike Ditka and had Buddy Ryan as my coordinator.

“I’ve played with great players as well; guys like Walter Payton and Mike Singletary. It’s been a long journey and I’ve had some ups and downs along the way. I’ve been really fortunate and I think all those things have prepared me to be the head
coach of the Minnesota Vikings and I can’t wait to kick off the season.”

Frazier has been a top head coaching candidate for several years and was reported as a finalist on three different occasions with franchises, but was not selected. He credits his faith for keeping him grounded during professional adversity.

“My faith is what helped me get through those moments,” Frazier said. “It was a goal of mine to one day be a head coach, but I always said to myself that when the Lord has the right place for me, that door was going to be opened. I really believe Minnesota is the right place for me. It was difficult being turned down, but I didn’t lose heart. I patiently waited and now it’s been presented to me.”

John Wooten, a 50-year veteran of the NFL as a player and former NFL front office executive, now chairs the Fritz Pollard Alliance,
the advocacy group that promotes diversity in job opportunities in NFL front offices. He believes Leslie Frazier is the real deal.

“He’s a great leader of men and has an outstanding knowledge of the game,” Wooten said. He has character attributes that remind me of coach [Tom] Landry and coach [Tony] Dungy.

Frazier was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2007. He values the years spent competing in the conference.

“I’m so grateful for my time at Alcorn and playing in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. I learned so much. I competed against some of the best players in the country. I got a great education, obtained my degree in business administration from Alcorn.

“It was just a great experience – the history, the tradition, the competition, the halftime, all just a lot of great memories playing in the SWAC.”

Coach Frazier is acutely aware of his place in NFL history. He is the eighth head coach in Viking history. He is a member of the growing fraternity of African-American head coaches, including Super Bowl winners Dungy and Tomlin and participants Lovie Smith and Jim Caldwell.

“The guys you mentioned have been trailblazers,” Frazier said. “It’s an honor to be recognized with those guys. Two have won Super Bowls and hopefully we can bring one to Minnesota. I know what this opportunity means to our culture.

I want to honor what I know I stand for as a person and if I do that, the people at Alcorn, the SWAC conference and the Minnesota fans will be proud of the job we anticipate doing.”

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