This post has been updated.
Two hundred and fifty-three names were called during the 2017 NFL Draft, but not one was of former Cornell football punter Chris Fraser ’17 — nor of any punter, for that matter.
But less than 24 hours after the end of the draft, Fraser got a couple calls from both the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, inviting him to take part in their rookie minicamps.
“It’s really surreal,” Fraser told The Sun. “It was a little nerve-wracking for the last 24 hours, but I can breathe a sigh of relief now.”
While not completely surprising that Fraser did not hear his name called in the draft, it was an especially off year for the punter position as a whole. None were selected in 2017, while three were taken in 2016. The absence of punters in this year’s draft makes for a “crazy frenzy” heading into the undrafted free agency period, according to Fraser.
The calls from the Bears and 49ers were a bit unexpected for Fraser. He was invited to workouts with several teams, such as his hometown Ravens, but he said Chicago got a good look at him at a March pro day at Fordham University. The 49ers went through his agent.
“I was kind of surprised,” Fraser said about the Bears’ call. “I was really lucky [their scout] had seen me there because he mentioned he hadn’t been able to see me at Cornell, but I was fortunate that he saw me at the pro day.”
Punting abilities aside, Fraser’s career to this moment took off with a note. A few years ago, his personal punting coach told him to put a clearly visible reminder in his locker telling himself “I am an NFL punter.” For Fraser, that repeated reminder was something that pushed him to his extreme, working everyday to get the call that came Sunday morning.
“I [had] that there to remind me that whatever happens, just to believe in yourself and know to your core that you have that ability in you,” Fraser said. “And if you see something long enough, you’re going to ingrain that in your head, and you’re going to truly believe that — and I do truly believe that.”
A December graduate, Fraser left Cornell and the Ivy League as one of its most decorated athletes of all time with a first-team all-Ivy selection in each of his four years, along with all-American honors. He was just the third ever to accumulate four first-team all-Ivy nods.
Over his career, the Maryland native averaged 42.8 yards per punt, a total of 48 that went over 60 yards and 69 that pinned his opponent inside their own 20. His career long of 72 yards came in his sophomore season, but a punt over 60 yards was nothing short of expected for Fraser. Not one of his punts was blocked.
Before the draft, Fraser told The Sun about the high level of competition that hopeful NFL punters were privy to, as not a ton of teams are looking to replace their punter.
“They don’t accept mediocrity, at least not very long,” Fraser said in March. “You always have to be improving and at a very high level. Because of that, since there is only one per team and all that, you have to grab a hold of any opportunity you can.”
For Fraser, he has taken advantage of every opportunity he has been afforded, which included a spot in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, as well as pro days and workouts with teams around the league.
“[It’s] just making sure that I’m at my peak physical performance level, having fun, enjoying it and staying active,” he said in March. “And making sure that I am at my best for the draft.”
Though invited to camp, Fraser is not guaranteed a spot on the opening day roster. An invitation to a rookie minicamp is a chance for him to show that he has what it takes to be on the roster, so between now and the end of the camp, Fraser knows he still has plenty to prove.
“My next step is really just focusing on one punt at a time, not worrying about the results, just making sure … I am focused, having fun and letting things fall where they may,” he said. “[I have to] keep it one step at a time and not look too far ahead.”
But until that point, Fraser will do his best to enjoy the glory and pure bliss that comes with knowing a professional football team is within his grasp.
“Twenty years from now, I can look back on things and appreciate everything that’s happened regardless of what happens in the couple weeks from now and coming years from now,” he said. “I am just going to try and enjoy this as much as possible.”