Jake Fromm aiming to lead Georgia to final step in national title quest after narrow misses
When Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm was an eighth-grader at Mossy Creek Middle School in Kathleen, Georgia, the word around town was that he planned to forgo high school football to concentrate on baseball.
Von Lassiter was the new coach at nearby Houston County High School and all he wanted was the truth.
“Within a week of me being on the job, I went to the middle school and pulled him out of class,” Lassiter told USA TODAY Sports. “He assured me he wanted to play football too. When we started working with him, I knew then because of his work ethic, being on time, the questions he asked, the way he carried himself and the way he threw the ball that he was a special player.”
That “special player” projection that Lassiter made on an eighth-grader looks prophetic today as Fromm prepares for his junior season, with early NFL mock drafts pegging him as an early first-round draft pick in 2020.
The consensus is Fromm, with 54 touchdown passes in his first two college seasons, is in the mix to be the first quarterback taken if he decides to forgo his final season of eligibility.
“He can throw the football, and get the ball out faster, than any kid I’ve ever coached,” Lassiter said.
Fromm isn’t spending time thinking about the NFL. His focus is on Georgia’s first game against Vanderbilt on Aug. 31 and making sure the Bulldogs have a better finish than in 2018 when they lost the SEC championship game to Alabama 35-28 and the Sugar Bowl to Texas 28-21.
“We didn’t always play up to our standards or where we wanted to be,” Fromm said. "A lot of this offseason is about doing more, and doing more better.”
Fromm’s physical tools have always been impressive, but his work ethic and attitude are two other reasons why he started receiving Division I offers when he was a freshman in high school.
“We have been getting after it in the weight room,” Fromm said about his summer routine. “The main focus has been leadership, guys stepping up, just trying to lead the team in the best way possible. Individually, I want to keep growing mentally, learning more and more about the playbook.”
Fromm’s potential seems unlimited because his past shows he continually excels in the spotlight. He played in the Little League World Series in 2011 and smacked three home runs, with a .333 batting average and eight RBI in four games. In the regional qualifying games, he batted .438 and struck out 25 batters in 11 innings as a pitcher.
“Everyone knew about Jake at a young age – he’s been under the microscope for a long time,” said Ryan Crawford, an assistant coach at Houston County when Fromm was there. Today, he’s the head coach.
Crawford said Fromm has an innate ability to bring the best out of people.
“That’s the first thing that jumped off the page about him,” Crawford said. “His personality, his drive and the ability to make the people around him better. That’s something I saw in him at an early age.”
Fromm didn’t quit baseball in high school. Playing first and third base, he helped his school win state championships as a freshman and a junior. He didn’t pitch because he didn’t like how the baseball felt in his hand after throwing so many footballs.
“It felt light in my hand,” Fromm said. “It felt like I was trying to throw a Wiffle ball really hard. It didn’t quite feel right. So I played first and third and tried to hit a few home runs here and there.”
Lassiter recalls that the Future Farmers of America had a greenhouse located deep in left field at Houston County.
“He kept hitting balls out there and putting holes through it,” Lassiter said. “They had to keep patching it. It was way out there, over some trees.”
Lassiter said if Fromm had chosen baseball he has “no doubt” Fromm would be on his way to becoming a major leaguer.
Hunting and fishing are two other passions Fromm has not given up. After his freshman season at Georgia, he went fishing and ended up going to the hospital because a fishing lure was stuck in his leg.
This summer, his fishing adventures were mishap free. He went fishing for redfish with his brothers and dad in Louisiana marshes.
"They can be 5 pounds or 25 pounds, and they pull a lot and they taste real good,” said Fromm, who added that his family caught some redfish in the 30-inch, 25-pound range. “They put up a fight.”
Fromm laughed. “I tried to stay as safe as possible.”
Just recently, he took teammates Malik Herring, Jordan Davis, J.R. Reid and Monte Rice for a day of shooting and fishing. He never gets too far away from the outdoors.
He and former coach Lassiter have spent much time together fishing and hunting. Lassiter couldn’t go on the redfish adventure, but his son did. Lassiter said his coach-player relationship with Fromm now has transformed into a friendship. They text each other pretty much every day, as much about life as about football. They try to work in some turkey hunting when time permits.
Fromm says he “fell in love” with football when he was in high school, but you will find find folks in his neck of the woods who say he loves the outdoors just as much.
“He’s a typical Georgia boy,” Crawford said. “Hunting and fishing is big deal in the South. It's something he likes to do. It kind of took his mind off playing ball. To be honest, if he had to choose between playing professional ball or being a professional fisherman, it might be a toss-up.”
Lassiter finds amusement in that thought. He jumps at the chance to take a playful jab at Fromm.
“He is passionate about hunting and fishing, but he is not as good at that as he is at playing college football,” Lassiter said, roaring with laughter. “If you talk to him, tell him I said that.”