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Frazier’s long wait ends well in NFL draft

Josh Frazier watched the first two days of the NFL draft with family and friends in Springdale, but he was alone for rounds 4-7 when his name more likely would come up.

“I wanted to be by myself in my thoughts,” Frazier said. “That’s just the way I am.”

The names of players and their their new teams rolled across the TV screens during a day-long selection process that began in the morning and ended late in the afternoon. Time was running out for Frazier, the former Springdale Har-Ber star who was still waiting for his name to be called.

Fourth round, no Frazier.

Fifth round, no Frazier.

Sixth round, still no Frazier.

The draft was well into its final hour when Frazier’s name finally appeared in the seventh round as the 246th overall pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers. There were 256 players taken during the three-day draft, including a handful of compensatory picks to teams who had lost free agents the previous year.

“I was calm. I wasn’t mad,” Frazier said of his demeanor as he watched many names but his own being called. “I was texting with coaches from other teams [Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens] who were telling me to be patient and how they wanted me. I would’ve signed with Detroit [as a free agent] had Pittsburgh not taken me.”

Frazier appeared to be a likely choice by Pittsburgh after he and a few other Alabama players had dinner with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin the night before the Tide’s pro day at Tuscaloosa, Ala. But Frazier (6-foot-4, 315 pounds) said he was still surprised the Steelers took him.

“Yes, I had dinner with him but I didn’t hear much from the Steelers after that,” Frazier said. “I was talking to other teams more than them.”

Alabama had a record 12 players selected in the NFL draft, including Frazier, who played four years but never started a game. He played in every game as a senior and had 15 tackles for the Tide, who beat Georgia 26-23 in overtime to win their fifth national championships in the past nine years under coach Nick Saban.

Frazier will leave for Pittsburgh in time for the Steelers’ min-camp later this week. He plans to stay at least two months to work out with the team and become acclimated to his new surroundings in Pittsburgh, a city of 300,000 — double the populations of Springdale and Tuscaloosa combined.

“I’m a Southern boy,” Frazier said. “I hope it’s not too much of a culture shock.”

Frazier won’t be on his own in Pittsburgh. He’ll be reunited with Kari Dunbar, his defensive line coach at Alabama who joined the Steelers as an assistant coach in February.

“Coach Dunbar, he was my defensive line coach my junior and senior years at Alabama,” Frazier. “I know he’ll take care of me and help me get settled. But once you’re in the league, it’s dog-eat-dog, and you have to take care of yourself.”

Frazier knows he must make an impression to stick with the Steelers, who carried eight defensive linemen last season and led all NFL defenses with 56 sacks. But Dunbar told reporters after the draft he has confidence in his former pupil at Alabama.

“He’s a big, strong kid and he can command two blockers,” Dunbar said of Frazier, who was the No. 1 high school recruit in Arkansas in 2014 when he signed with Alabama. “Hopefully, his best football is ahead of him.”

And if it isn’t?

Frazier didn’t waste his time in college at Alabama. He earned a degree, which will prove beneficial in his life after football.

Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@ nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.

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