Weeks before the 2013 football season, longtime Armwood coach Sean Callahan said Hyriam Frederick, an undersized defensive lineman, virtually unknown as a recruit who played sparingly as a junior, was his best football player.
It spoke volumes.
Already on the 2013 roster were Kyle Gibson, a senior and four-star safety, and Byron Cowart, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound junior now rated by many recruiting services as the No. 1 defensive lineman in the country.
“He’s one of those kids that had a high motor,” Callahan said. “He made tackles from the back side as a sophomore. That’s just from desire and playing the Armwood way, running hard to the ball.”
At 6-0, 250 pounds, Frederick finished his senior season with 79 tackles and eight sacks while helping his team reach the Class 6A state championship game.
His determination to compete at a high level involved more than a passion for football. Frederick’s father, Sam Frederick, also played at Armwood under Callahan as an offensive lineman.
“Always be better than he was,” Hyriam Frederick would say to himself.
Sam Frederick, however, never reached his potential as a football player. He was arrested multiple times and is serving the remainder of a sentence at a federal corrections facility in Butner, N.C. He won’t be released until June 2018.
“I always pushed (football) on him because he was a big guy,” said Robyn Donaldson, Hyriam’s mother. “The change really came when he understood the concept of football. That really compensated for his father not being there.”
With relatively no playing experience as a sophomore, Hyriam made the best of his playing time as a junior, finishing with six sacks.
“It was clear what he was developing into,” Callahan said.
And with a newfound understanding of how his performance on the field brought joy to his family, especially his mother, playing time became a necessity. During the 2013 season, it quickly became apparent Armwood had the best defensive line in Hillsborough County, and led by Frederick and Cowart, perhaps even the best in the state.
“He set the bar high,” Callahan said. “The harder Hyriam played, the harder Byron played.”
But Cowart was the prized recruit who garnered the most attention. Frederick, somehow, didn’t mind.
“At some point, it did (bother me),” Frederick said, “but then it didn’t really matter. Some people are smaller and better. I just stopped thinking about it.”
Frederick’s father has never seen his son play football. His mother said Hyriam has spent no more than a year-and-a-half around his father his entire life.
“It made me stronger,” Frederick said. “I didn’t have a dad to raise me. My mom being a single parent, I know it was hard for her. It motivated me to do better in school.
Frederick has verbally committed to play at Alabama State. He’ll be the first person in his family to play football at the college level.
“Words can’t describe how happy I am,” Donaldson said.
In North Carolina, Sam Frederick is just as proud. Hyriam kept him updated on his breakout senior year, which included him being selected to the all-state team.
“It feels good,” Hyriam Frederick said. “I was working three years for a good season and to get somewhere in college. It makes me proud of myself and accomplished of what I’ve done.”