The answer Von Lassiter got from Jake Fromm days before Georgia’s season opener kept his high school coach back home in Cochran Saturday, watching on TV with his wife and a son.
He asked the freshman quarterback if he should come watch Fromm play for the Bulldogs.
Of course, there was no telling when the first college snap would come for the Bulldogs’ backup from Warner Robins, but Fromm felt pretty sure it wouldn’t come against Appalachian State.
“He said he didn’t think he would get in unless there was an injury or the score was lopsided, so we stayed at home,” Lassiter said. “App State usually doesn’t let it get lopsided.”
Emerson and Lee Fromm, were sitting in their seats at around the 40-yard line in Sanford Stadium when Jacob Eason scrambled out of bounds on Georgia’s eighth offensive play, getting hit late and coming up limping. Eason injured his left knee and their son Jake’s moment was suddenly here.
“People around us didn’t know who we were,” said father Emerson Fromm, whose twin sons Dylan and Tyler were sitting in the student section. “We were probably too excited on a completion probably than we should have been. They were like, ‘That’s just a completion, not that big a deal.’ Well, it was a big deal to us. At the same time, we just wish Eason a speedy recovery and hopefully Jake can be a good teammate, and go in there and do his job.”
The job he did – completing 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown – led Georgia to a 31-10 victory and excited fans.
Now Fromm will be called on again Saturday night for No. 15 Georgia at storied Notre Dame, hardly a run-of-the-mill first starting assignment.
Lassiter made a promise to Fromm as they sat in his office at Houston County High after Fromm’s final high school game that whenever his first college start would be, Lassiter would be there.
It quickly dawned on Lassiter, now head coach at Bleckley County, Saturday night: “I’ve got to fly to Notre Dame.”
So after his team’s game at Wilcox County Friday night, Lassiter has a plane to catch early Saturday and plans to be back for his coaching staff’s meeting at 2 p.m. Sunday.
He still has to find some tickets for the game.
The Fromms were already planning to be in South Bend, Ind., and now three different friends of his father have booked trips for the game.
Fromm’s family joined him in his dorm room after the game Saturday for about an hour, watching the Florida State-Alabama game and eating some protein bars.
“Jake’s not a go-out kid, him and Charlie sit and watch Netflix or watch film,” his father said of tight end Charlie Woerner, Jake’s roommate. “In his mind, he’s there to play football and study. He’s not worried about girls, he’s not worried about downtown life. He’s there to play football.”
On the morning after Georgia’s win, Lassiter reached Fromm by phone, out in the woods somewhere “shooting birds.”
Georgia does not make freshmen available to speak to the media, but his father said, “Jake, I promise you, is ready to make the best of this opportunity.”
His musical taste ranges from country to Christian music, with a little rap thrown in, and he likes a good meal.
“It’s really expensive when I go to Athens to take him out to eat,” Lassiter said.
After watching Fromm lift weights and practice, the coach dropped about $125 at Porterhouse Grill downtown.
Fromm was rated the nation’s No. 3 pro-style quarterback by the 247Sports composite a year after Georgia landed Eason, the five-star, who coach Kirby Smart flew to Washington state to see after his introductory news conference.
There’s been more chatter this offseason about 2018 prized prospect Justin Fields from Harrison High than about the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Fromm.
“The reason Jake sometimes gets forgotten is he’s not a diva, he’s not a me guy,” his father said. “He’s not trying to be a flashy guy. He doesn’t look good in shorts.”
Smart thought enough of the four-star Fromm that it didn’t take long for him to get him to flip his commitment from Alabama to Georgia in March 2016, just months after Smart left Tuscaloosa to become Georgia’s head coach.
“Jake is a gamer, he’s just a kid that grew up around the game,” Smart said. “I look at him and compare him to what would be a coach’s son, a football junkie. He loves being around it. He’s always cheering and fired up out there. Every time he makes a good throw or a good play in practice, he’s jacked up and he’s as excited for the kid that made the play as he is as himself.”
Fromm has been making plays in high-pressure situations for years.
Whether as a 13-year old, when he bashed three home runs for Warner Robins in the Little League World Series playing in front of more than 32,000 in one game, or as a freshman against Warner Robins, when Fromm was inserted in the game in the third series and threw for nearly 300 yards to lead Houston County to the win and move into the starting role.
“The kid has ice is his veins and he’ll play great wherever he’s at,” Lassiter said. “That kind of stuff doesn’t bother him. Really, the bigger the stage, the better he is.”
Lassiter said Fromm can make all the throws, even if it isn’t always pretty like his first touchdown pass of 34 yards to Javon Wims that hung in the air, but gave Wims a chance to get it.
“He felt like his guy can win,” Lassiter said.
A crew of six followed Fromm on and off the field in his senior high school season for the web series “QB1–Beyond the Lights” that followed high-profile recruits. Jake didn’t seek the spotlight, but his father thought the exposure could help.
Georgia’s previous coaching staff didn’t offer Fromm. He decided to go to Georgia when he had the chance after Eason was already enrolled and many expected him to win the starting job as a freshman.
“I don’t think Jake Fromm cares about the depth charts,” Smart said. “He loved Georgia. … It didn’t matter who was here. He is pretty confident in himself. That’s what the best ones are.”
His father, who owns a pool business, thinks the world will see what he’s seen from his son, who passed for more than 12,800 yards in high school and is No. 2 on Georgia’s all-time passing list behind Deshuan Watson.
Georgia safety J.R. Reed said Fromm has the “it” factor and more often than not, finds a way to win in practice drills.
Fullback Christian Payne hated to see Eason get injured, but said the Bulldogs didn’t miss a beat with Fromm.
“I don’t feel like we lost a step with confidence and our ability to play good because we knew that Jake Fromm was completely capable of leading this team,” Payne said. “Yeah, he’s young and everything, but I feel the way he goes about handling his business is like a vet. It’s like he’s been here for four or five years.”