This week represents a quick turnaround for South Carolina placekicker Elliott Fry.
The junior spent last weekend in Texas, taking advantage of fall break and the team’s bye week for a quick trip home. After traversing half the country twice in less than a week, he’ll do it again as his Gamecocks football team makes its first appearance in College Station, Texas, on Saturday.
It’s a trip Fry never expected to make when he chose to join the Gamecocks.
“I didn’t know that I would be able to play A&M,” Fry said. “When I first came here, I don’t think the schedule was made yet.”
Texas A&M had just moved to the SEC from the Big 12 when Fry was being recruited. An avowed Texas fan, Fry was raised on the Longhorn-Aggie rivalry. He reminisced this week about watching the annual Thanksgiving night meeting, a series now dormant because of the conference change. The last game was capped by a game-winning kick from the Longhorns’ Justin Tucker, a Fry favorite.
In leaving Texas, Fry got to immerse himself in a second culture. From the Big 12 to SEC, the everything-is-bigger-in-Texas outlook to South Carolina’s compact geography and Southern ways and, of course, from one way of smoking meat to another.
“I like the whole SEC culture,” Fry said. “I was never part of that growing up. … I miss the Texas barbecue a lot. It’s pretty good.”
As a player making a rare homecoming of sorts, the subject of tickets floats to the surface. He’ll have to round them up for the uncommon chance his friends and family can comfortably drive to see him live. Tailback Brandon Wilds said players expect a lot of tickets to be available, and the kicker added he’s reaping the benefit of the distance of the trip (more than a 1,000-mile drive) limiting the number of parents heading that way.
Even coach Shawn Elliott is seeing a little something extra from his top kicker.
“I was just around him (Monday) at practice,” Elliott said. “Elliott’s always got a little bit of excitement. He’s always got a little bit of that wit to him. I can imagine, if you were that guy and you were going back to play in your home state. … He’s got to have that excitement, that twinkle in his eye, that spirit. He’s a long way from home, he doesn’t have many opportunities to go showcase his talents in front to the fans that grew up watching him kick.
“If I put myself in that position, I’d be smiling from ear to ear.”
The Frisco, Texas, native has been counted on heavily this season, as the Gamecocks’ offense often sputters in the red zone. He admitted he’d prefer to be kicking fewer field goals, as it would mean the team reached the end zone more.
That said, he’s evolving into a long-range weapon.
After attempting only two field goals of 50 or more yards in his first two seasons, Fry has already tried four from that distance. He’s hit two, and while he’s had issues from 40-49 yards (2-for-5), he’s 11-for-12 inside 39 yards and leads the nation in attempts.
“He does an amazing job for us,” quarterback Perry Orth said. “We’ve had some struggles here and there in the red zone. Just almost knowing that it’s a guaranteed three points, it takes some of the pressure off of you as an offense.
“Knowing that you have a kicker like Elliott to knock three down for you, it’s pretty nice.”
One thing Fry will have to do this week is tamp down any extra excitement from getting to play in the Lone Star State. He’s still a kicker, someone who has to stay calm and locked in on technique. As a veteran at the position, he said the self control and even-keeled approach are part of the job.
But he still gets to indulge in one of the perks of knowing guys on the other side: trash talk, even with family. It started as soon as it became clear the Gamecocks would have some meetings with A&M.
“I always joke with my stepbrother, who is there now,” Fry said. “Me and my dad talk about how if it came down to a game-winner, what would he actually want to happen? Hopefully, he’ll want me to do good, but I know he still wants A&M to win deep down in his heart.”
Hometown: Frisco, Texas
Season stats: 15-for-21, 71.4 percent. Leads nation in attempts and second in makes
From 40-49: 2-for-5
From 50-plus: 2-for-4