Credit - IU Athletics

All-Americans McFadden and Fryfogle defied odds at IU, Outback Bowl brings more improbable rewards

Micah McFadden was the lowest ranked recruit in Indiana’s 2018 class.

As a class of 2017 recruit, Ty Fryfogle had just two power five options, one as a legacy.

Two recruits that almost nobody wanted or expected much from.  And today they are Indiana’s first All-Americans since 2016.

That is something that not even McFadden or Fryfogle saw as a likely outcome of this bizarre 2020 college football season.

“I am not going to lie and say that I expected this, that this was one of my biggest goals, or that I really saw it happening this season,” McFadden said.  “I am really excited that it came and that the success that I had and the defense had created momentum for this team, the season that we are having, and this upcoming bowl game. I am really excited, really glad, and really happy for Ty Fryfogle as well.”

Fryfogle had more yards in the seven game 2020 season than he had in 12 games in 2019.  He had more touchdowns this year than he had scored throughout his time at IU.

While he wasn’t necessarily expecting to be an All-American, Fryfogle did like how his college career was trending.

“I wouldn’t say I’m shocked,” Fryfogle said. “I feel like over these past four years I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at, getting better each year. I feel like I’ve elevated my game, but I still have a long way to go.”

There was a time when Fryfogle, a Lucedale, Miss. product, seemed like a lock to play for Indiana’s Outback Bowl opponent.

Fryfogle’s father Trey was a wide receiver for Ole Miss.  He played alongside IU wide receivers coach Grant Heard in Oxford.  Heard graduated as the school’s all-time leader in career receptions and scores

With Ole Miss as Fryfogle’s only power five offer, following in his father’s footsteps seemed like a sure thing.

“A really good chance because that was one of the top teams I was looking to go to,” Fryfogle said of potentially attending Ole Miss. “A really good possibility. But I like where I’m at now.”

But when Heard took the wide receivers job at IU in 2017 when Tom Allen was hired as head coach, he tried to get Fryfogle to follow him to Bloomington.  Indiana became Fryfogle’s second, and only other power five option.

“Knowing where he comes from, knowing his work ethic, there’s something in him that I just really liked,” Heard said of Fryfogle. “I was going to take him at Ole Miss before I left and because of our relationship, he followed me up here to Indiana.”

Credit – IU Athletics

McFadden’s only other power five option was Boston College.  Ultimately, familiarity led him to Bloomington too.  He was a teammate of head coach Tom Allen’s son Thomas at Plant High School, along with wideout Whop Philyor and safety Juwan Burgess.

Two unwanted recruits, that happened to have a connection to the IU staff, took a chance and bought in to a program and a culture.

Just a few years later — both are All-Americans — and poster boys for the individual glory that their head coach says is possible when the team is prioritized.

“That is a tremendous honor for those two young men and for our program,” head coach Tom Allen said.  “We are excited for them and just continue to be recognized for what this team has accomplished and what we continue to do together, so proud of those guys.”

Now McFadden is headed back to Tampa to play the Outback Bowl in his hometown.

“I was really glad to get that honor,” McFadden said. “I am so honored. I want to thank all my teammates, coaches and family for pushing me and encouraging me. They have all really helped me through this difficult, weird season. I am glad for the momentum that this team has and really excited for this bowl game coming up.”

And now Fryfogle is ready to face the school he spurned for IU, and his dad’s alma mater.

“It is a really big honor,” he said. “I am very thankful to receive this honor. It has been a blessing, but I just want to finish off the season the right way with this football team and get the win.

McFadden is now a hero to young IU fans.  And on Saturday he’ll have a chance to play on a field where his idols once roamed.

“I have been to Raymond James a few times for the few Tampa Bay Buccaneer games I have been to,” he said.  “I actually went to the Bucs game when John Lynch was inducted into the Ring of Honor. My brother was actually able to play a high school game there, but I was not able to. It is going to mean a lot. I have a lot of family coming, I think it will be close to 45 people that will be at the game. It will be really exciting. I cannot wait to play in front of a big crowd for once this season.”

Fryfogle isn’t going home, but seeing the Ole Miss uniforms across the field will certainly bring back memories from his childhood.

“I grew up watching Ole Miss a lot,” he said.  “My family supports Ole Miss. They watch Ole Miss a lot, and I have been to a couple games.”

He even has a cousin that will be lining up on the opposite side of the ball, Jakwaize Walker.

And of course there has been some friendly chatter.

“We’ve been talking a lot about this game,” Fryfogle said. “We talk every night about it. Excited to play him.”

McFadden and Fryfogle’s ties to this game are certainly improbable.

That they will both line up on Saturday as All-Americans?  Many would have said that was nearly impossible.

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