Cowboys problem-solver Frederick outsmarts the Jaguars at Wembley, London

by Andrew McSteen

Travis Frederick is not your average pro-football player.

Studying computer engineering and computer science – Engineering Mechanics, with an emphasis towards Computer Engineering to be specific – at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, you could be forgiven for wondering why the 2013 NFL Draft first-round pick did not pursue a career in microchips and app development instead of the organised chaos of the NFL offensive line.

Whilst admitting that he is not working on any apps at the moment, instead focussing on football during the season, the Cowboys #72, with a self-proclaimed personality somewhere ‘between a computer nerd and football player’, would not rule out any app development in the off season.

Former Wisconsin teammate and Seattle Seahawks Superbowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson once described Frederick as “one of the most intelligent people you will ever meet” and in the locker room at Wembley Stadium last night Frederick cut a calm, focussed and thoughtful figure when he spoke with A Head For The Game following the Cowboys’ 31-17 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars and was in no doubt there was still work to be done.

“It’s nice to come away with a win, but there are certainly a lot of things we can improve on and things we need to improve on,” said the Sharon, Wisconsin-born player.

“We’ll go and watch the film on the plane ride back and get those things fixed, there are things we need to improve on if we are going to continue to have success until the end of the season.

“It’s going to be small things, nuances; making sure we’re working the right guys, getting the right play called at the right time and making sure our technique is on at all points.

“It’s hard to see for the fans, as for the most part it’s an inch here or an inch there. We watch every play 25 times to make sure everything is just right so we can see the little things we need to fix.”

tony-romo-travis-frederick-nfl-international-series-dallas-cowboys-jacksonville-jaguars1-850x560It’s often been said that ‘football smarts’, the art of understanding plays, formations and tactics is a different type of knowledge to general ‘intelligence smarts’, and the 23-year-old former Badgers player endorses that view.

“Football smarts and intellectual smarts – it’s different,” he explained. “I think about when I am done playing and potentially being a coach, and I honestly believe, in High School, you can teach several classes just on football; Football 1, Football 2. There are so many intricacies in the game, so many tiny things, details, which really make things work.

“There is a lot of different knowledge, but it all ends with the same conclusion; in college work if you get things – if you understand – it is easier and it is the same process which adapts over into the field where it makes it easier for you.

“There is an adaptability between problem solving in college and on the field; there’s just a little bit more knowledge investment going in there.”

With all of those smarts, Travis admitted that it is important to draw a line between work and his free time.

“I like to try and get away from football when I am not playing,” he explained. “It refreshes you and gets you ready for the next game – you’re not thinking about what happened last and you’re not constantly thinking about what’s going to happen.

“It lets your body shut down – it kind of cycles up and down that way and I’ve found that’s the best way for me to do it.”

Travis who describes engineering as the ‘art of problem solving’ is in the right business as players and coaches will meticulously review every play, call and decision made by their team as they continuously fine-tune their operation towards perfection.

“In our system, every problem has a solution,” explained Frederick. “Sometimes it’s not a five-man solution, sometimes you have to add another guy and then another guy – sometimes it takes all 11 to work.

“In theory, every play you should be able to complete or make efficient. So when we have a non-efficient play or a zero play; a tackle for a loss, that’s a problem that can be fixed.

“So we will continue to do that and we make adjustments on the sidelines, see the pictures and just try and get ourselves in the right position to get better.”

And get better they are. The side that Jerry Jones built is now 7-3 in the NFC East and set for a post-season run under the guidance of Coach Jason Garrett.

“I don’t like to make predictions,” said Frederick when asked about the rest of the season and what his side could achieve. “We just need to continue to work, hopefully continue to be better and I think we could do some good things.”

Like all teams which play in the NFL International Series matches in London, the Cowboys now take their rest, with a bye week, before their Week 12 match-up at the New York Giants.

“The bye week comes at a great time for us,” said the 6’3” two-year professional. “It couldn’t come at a better time – we need some rest.

“We’ve got 10 games under our belt and we’re going to take a break. We’ll go back and finish off with six more games and hopefully get a start for the post-season.”

The trip to London was the first for Frederick who admitted he was “really impressed” by the city and despite those stories of the Cowboys players breaking their curfew whilst in the English capital, Frederick was keen to come back one day in a future off-season.

“I didn’t get chance to do a lot of stuff,” he revealed. “I would love to come back and see some of the touristy deals; it’s been fun and a good trip.”

Photo Credits: Dallas Cowboys / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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