Caleb Frye kicked cancer. Now he’s kicking footballs for Bluefield College.
The Lord, as the saying goes, works in mysterious ways.
“It is a blessing, honestly I feel like the Lord wants me here and I am just following Him and stepping out on faith and so far it is paying off,” Frye said. “I am enjoying it, it is a blast, the football team is great. We are all getting along really well.”
Frye, a backup kicker for the Rams, was on the sidelines last Saturday when Bluefield played its first game since 1941, a 42-28 loss to the University of Pikeville.
No one enjoyed it more.
“Honestly it was a blessing considering what I have been through and what I have overcome and just to be able to step on his field as a college student and a college athlete,” Frye said. “I never saw that coming and all I could think about is, ‘God, is this really happening right now, thank you so much for what you have done for me.’”
Frye has been through more than most. He has a reason for choosing his career path, having survived childhood cancer that had already reached the third of four stages.
“That is a lot of the driving force where I want to be a pediatric oncologist,” Frye said. “Just to be able to help the children and give a testimony and let them know that everything is under control.”
The 5-foot-7, 135-pound Frye knows all about it. While most children his age on Memorial Day weekend in 1999 were thinking about summer vacation, he was thinking about survival, having been diagnosed at age 7 with a type of lymphoma that attacks the emphatic system, and had infected him in his right groin and the lineage of his stomach.
“I had to go through 20 chemo treatments over the course of the year, it was four-stage cancer and they diagnosed me on stage 3 so it had progressed pretty well,” Frye said. “I had 20 chemo treatments and right now I have been in remission for a little over 12 years and I am doing checkups every year now.”
Frye endured the treatments and recovered, and even found a bright spot when second grade started in the fall.
“What was so cool about that is I was able to ‘go as I please’ from where I was still on treatment so that was, I guess you could say, a plus side,” he said, with a laugh. “If there was a plus side, that could be it, I could go to school whenever I want to.”
Frye would go on to have a typical childhood, playing soccer before finally dropping that sport in eighth grade in favor of baseball. Yet, that kicking gene never left him, and he has worked to get his leg back in shape like it was at Patrick Henry High School in Glade Spring, Va.
“Right now I am trying to get the rust off a little bit,” Frye said. “As of right now I am just hanging tight and just enjoying my time here and just trying to get back to where I was back in high school and just working on getting better too.”
With the encouragement of friends, Frye attended kicking camps for three years, and developed into an All-Hogoheegee District and All-Region C kicker at Patrick Henry. He also played wide receiver and free safety for the Rebels, with his last two seasons spent under the tutelage of Mike Compton, who is now the offensive line coach at Bluefield College.
Cancer has a way of rearing its ugly head again with its victims, and Frye has experienced a scare once since it first appeared all those years ago.
“Actually back in my senior year I strained a groin muscle in my left leg and some lymph nodes popped up and that brought a scare on just a little bit,” said Frye, who has kicked field goals as long as 50 yards in practice and 37 yards in games. “In the back of my mind it does reappear sometimes, but I know the Lord has healed me and I know He is going to be taking care of me.”
Frye had spent two years at Virginia Highlands Community College with kicking being the furthest thing from his mind until Compton came calling with an offer Frye couldn’t refuse.
“After high school I honestly thought it was over with,” Frye said. “I decided I would focus on education, but out of the blue I feel like God opened up the door for me to kick again so here I am.”
The offer to kick again at the college level, plus the right major for his career goals proved to be the right mix for Frye.
“Going through Highlands I was focused on education and then I found out they have a good biology program (here) with an emphasis on pre-med here and that is the direction I want to go,” he said. “That made the trip up here even more easier to make that choice.”
Compton first approached Bluefield College head coach Mike Gravier about adding Frye to the team.
“I know he contracted cancer and obviously you don’t worry about the athletic career, you just worry about life at that point,” Gravier said. “I know he came back and he was able to play for Coach Compton at Patrick Henry and he had a nice little career.
“He had a chance to kick and did a very good job and that is why Mike recommended we look at him as one of our kickers.”
Frye also played offense and defense at Patrick Henry, and learned to tackle football like he did life.
“Mike’s biggest concern was he was going to fly down and hit somebody because that was just his mentality,” Gravier said. “He is one of those kids that didn’t let something like cancer slow him down or change his life, he didn’t sit around and feel sorry for himself and that is really the kind of kid that he is.”
Frye is now backing up Mikel Hawks as a kicking specialist for the Rams, and Gravier likes his contributions not only on kickoffs, but with his ability to place the ball. He is now working to make his leg stronger after limitations on his ability to lift heavy weights was removed last summer.
“I am very happy because now I can make my leg stronger,” said Frye, a left-footed kicker who does everything else right-handed.
Frye speaks openly of his faith in God, a relationship that began a year before cancer entered his life.
“Actually I got saved at 6 years old, I got saved on Palm Sunday of 1998 and then a year later I am here battling,” said Frye, who will turn 21 on Sept. 13. “At that young age you don’t really know too much in depth of it, but at the time I knew that there was Christ and I accepted Him.
“A lot of people said I was strong at that time and I always say ‘I will take your word for it.’”
He plans to spend two years at Bluefield College and then continue his education toward his career goals. He’s excited about what that time will hold.
“I want to get better as a kicker and be an asset to the team whenever they need me and being able to come out and just kick and enjoy myself and that is something I have always wanted to do,” Frye said. “As a student I would like to excel at being able to learn a whole lot into my major and just being able to take that and go on to medical school and get into being a pediatric oncologist, that is my biggest concern.”
Much has been made of Bluefield College football returning after a 71-year hiatus. No one felt more fortunate to be a part of that first game last Saturday than Frye.
“It was awesome, it was an awesome feeling to be part of history that I can grow up and look back on and say, ‘Hey, I was part of their first team that got started after 71 years,’” Frye said. “It is a great feeling to be back on the football field.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
Caleb Frye kicked cancer. Now he’s kicking footballs for Bluefield College.
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