SCHMIDT: Life of Frozena

With his hands on knees and his heart in his throat, senior guard Rob Frozena weathers himself for the storm.

The hurricane blows across the practice court: coach Buzz Williams, a stocky, red-faced ball of fury, God’s wrath incarnate.

“Rob! Do you think you’re a good player?” Williams questions, eyes aglow in hellfire.

Frozena pauses. He doesn’t like where this is going. He’s drained from a grueling practice; copious puddles of sweat are forcing his shirt to suction to his skin, his legs and feet anchored to the ground with fatigue. This is the last thing I need, he thinks. Why me, why now?

“I guess I’m all right,” Frozena responds cautiously. He doesn’t want to stoke the coals.

The answer flutters in the air for the entire gym to hear before Williams’ response knifes through it.

“No, you’re terrible!” Williams shouts back.

Terrible. The word hits Frozena like a mortar hits a defenseless, rubber field dummy. Terrible. It can’t actually be true, can it? It’s just tough love. Buzz being Buzz, he doesn’t really mean it. Everybody gets called out by the no-nonsense coach at some point.  This is just his turn under the gun.

It doesn’t matter now, anyway. There’s no turning back. Three years of pre-season boot camp and 4 a.m. wake-up calls and sacrificing his time, energy and life for some free socks and Jordan sweats. He works as hard as everyone else, and for what? Three seasons on the team and he’s only played in 26 games, a sparse 59 total minutes of game time. And 13 career points. Terrible.

Frozena, 22 years old, stands 6-feet-1-inch and 190 pounds, a native of Sherwood, Wisc., is a senior at Marquette. He’s not terrible, just average; a regular guy living an extraordinary dream. Compared to the rest of the Golden Eagles – those towering, muscular monoliths perusing around campus – he’s terribly misfit, like Rambo at a ballet recital.

Maybe it’s how humble and unassuming he is that makes him such a fan-favorite. Maybe it’s because his physique isn’t stratospheric like most college players. Maybe it’s because, like 82.1 percent of the student body, he is white.

Maybe it’s because, deep down, he’s everything we wish we could be. We look at him and say, “why not us?”

Seeing him at the jam-packed Bradley Center, warming up before a high stakes conference game next to future NBA talent like Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward, looking like the kid-next-door – we see a little bit of ourselves out there.

Frozena is certainly someone to admire. He’s a passionate hard worker, wearing his shooting hand down to bone and dust while popping endless amounts of threes at St. Mary Central – his high school domain where he dropped 24 points per game as a senior.

Since he walked on to Marquette as a freshman, his three-point trigger has been kept mostly in his holster, but that tireless work ethic has carried over to practice, where he pushes the team’s best players to the brink of their talents.

“I have my role on the team,” Frozena said “Being a walk-on, you have to work hard. It’s innate. It’s what you do. It’s just what I have in me.”

To some, spilling sweat and tears solely for the benefit of other may seem masochistic. It’s true, much of Frozena’s existence on the team is spent occupying invisible space, living on the desolate confines of the end of the bench, only making himself known to cheer or coach the rest of the team.

“I know I’m not going to play. I know that. But I’m still a part of this team,” Frozena says.

Despite some of the thanklessness of his efforts for three years, Frozena wouldn’t change anything for the world. Blessed, honored and privileged is how he described his life. Family is how he described his teammates, calling them his brothers.

It doesn’t matter that he’s shorter, slower, less athletic and different than his 14 peers. He’s just their teammate. Just another piece of the puzzle, and without him, they can never be a finished product.

The desire to be apart of something great, to band together like brothers, make magic and win championships is motivation for Frozena.

And then there are the fans. He admits that he hears them when he goes into a game, like a faint echo deep inside of him. Every year the cheers have gotten louder and louder for him, and Frozena suspects Marquette Nation’s support will rise to sky-shattering decibels in his last year. He can’t help but laugh about it.

He knows he’s not just playing for himself or teammates or Buzz, but for all of us average people. He knows we relate to him. And so we cheer for him, with all of our being.

Terrible? Nope, not even close. Rob Frozena’s life is a dream come true.