From the moment Franz Aristotle Froehlich introduces himself, you know he’s not your average high school football player.
“My dad likes philosophy,” Froehlich said with a smile, “but I prefer to go by Ari.”
The name is quite fitting for Froehlich. He comes off as more of a quirky intellect than that of a middle linebacker for Corona del Mar High’s football team.
He says his favorite food is pesto gnocchi.
“Have you tried it? It’s amazing,” said Froehlich, emphasizing his culinary recommendation with an OK hand signal.
Froehlich watches his diet closely, monitors his sleep habits, and takes fish oil, calcium and a host of other daily vitamins at the direction of his mother, Mindy McCartney. He believes that what you put into your body is a direct result of what you can get out of it.
“I take my health very seriously,” Froehlich said, “and I take pride in the fact that I haven’t missed a game due to injury.”
Froehlich even takes a diagnostic approach to the way he tackles, identifying the best angle to take to make the play while reducing the possibility of suffering an injury.
“A lot of times when people have the opportunity to make a big hit they have tunnel vision and it’s an animal instinct to just go destroy someone,” Froehlich said. “I’m still aggressive and [go] hard when I hit, but I make sure to keep my head out of it.”
Froehlich said he carries a 4.3 weighted grade-point average, wants to study business in college to become an entrepreneur like his father, Nick Froehlich. Franz Froehlich even looks at the game of football as something that’s more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
“You have to put your body on the line to help your teammate get another few yards or blow up some person on defense,” Froehlich said. “It’s a mentality that grows into you doing anything for your brothers and it’s really special.”
Froehlich’s brothers were glad he was on their side on Nov. 2 against Redondo Union in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.
Froehlich recorded a career-high 12 tackles and added a sack in the top-seeded Sea Kings’ 49-14 victory over the Sea Hawks at Newport Harbor High. He helped CdM (9-1-1) reach the quarterfinals for the ninth straight season, and the Sea Kings will host Yorba Linda (9-2) at Davidson Field on Friday at 7 p.m.
While those numbers in the first round, along with his season total of 58 total tackles, might seem modest to most, it was the first time Froehlich played an entire game this season. It came at the perfect time as the teammate he splits time with, junior Cole Rener, missed the game due to illness.
“He had a huge game for us,” Sea Kings coach Dan O’Shea said of Froehlich. “I can’t emphasize this enough, Ari is a returning second-team all-league linebacker who rotates with [a younger player] and never says boo. It’s the most selfless thing I’ve seen in my life. He’s one of our best mentors.”
In contrast to some past CdM stars, Froehlich didn’t arrive on campus destined to make an impact on the football field, much less start at the most important position on the defensive side of the ball.
“When he entered this program as a freshman, he looked like a wet noodle,” O’Shea said. “He looked like a bookworm, and it was like, ‘That guy will never play varsity football for us.’”
But Froehlich didn’t let his lack of physical gifts get in the way of his steady rise to football prominence. Instead, he used his mental capacity to work his way up the varsity depth chart as a sophomore, seeing limited time, then as a junior part-time starter, and now as a senior leader.
“He is an academic guy,” O’Shea said. “He uses his intellectual capabilities, just like all of the middle linebackers before him here, who have all been savants about lining up 10 other guys perfectly to make our defense play well. His football IQ and work ethic are amazing.”
Froehlich’s work ethic in his football studies is very similar to what he puts into his academics.
The 5-foot-9, 190-pounder spends countless amounts of time working on form tackling, studying the Sea Kings’ numerous defensive schemes, and watching film on CdM’s opponents. In Froehlich’s mind, knowing the opposition’s personnel is just as important as knowing your own.
“As a middle linebacker, the job is to control the play calling and … be the quarterback of the defense,” Froehlich said. “Whenever there is a conflict, I’m the one they rely on.”
O’Shea said Froehlich embodies everything that the CdM football program is about.
“He is what makes this program great,” O’Shea said. “We rely on our mental capacity for alignment, assignment and technique to play really good football. It’s a testament to Ari, because I’m not sure anyone looked at him when he entered this program and said, ‘Hey, that’s Corona del Mar’s starting middle linebacker.’”
But Froehlich proved a lot of people wrong, from those who said he would never play varsity football, to the others who thought he would never become a varsity starter. Froehlich did it in the most unconventional way possible.
He became CdM’s starting middle linebacker by being a different kind of kid. He did it by understanding that he could weave his intellectual capabilities in with the intricacies of the game to make up for his lack of size, speed and strength.
“I take pride in the fact that I’m not a large person, physically, but I can play middle linebacker,” Froehlich said. “I have to rely on form and the mental ability I have.”
Born: Sept. 7, 2000
Hometown: Newport Beach
Height: 5 feet 9
Weight: 190 pounds
Coach: Dan O’Shea
Favorite food: Pesto gnocchi
Favorite movie: “Inception”
Favorite athletic moment: Beating Newport Harbor in the Battle of the Bay rivalry in all four years while at CdM.