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ASU Football: Senior long snapper Mitchell Fraboni helps young special teams unit flourish

The special teams ace is ready for his final game at Sun Devil Stadium

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-West Virginia vs Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

When he was in high school, Arizona State Sun Devils senior long snapper Mitchell Fraboni didn’t much consider a future at the position.

In fact, in addition to long snapping, Fraboni played defensive end, recording 10 sacks and intercepting two passes during his senior season at Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee, Arizona en route to a state championship.

That’s when then-ASU graduate assistant and current NAU wide receivers coach Aaron Pflugrad came calling. Offering Fraboni a preferred walk-on spot, Pflugrad invited him to watch the team in the hope of bringing him on.

“I tried one camp and then he was already pursuing me, saying, ‘just come out and look at some of our spring ball practices and we’ll go from there,’” Fraboni said.

After attending, he was given an ultimatum, but not by anyone with the team.

“My mom was like, ‘well, you have to make a decision by the end of the day today,’” Fraboni said. “So I said, ‘alright, I’m going to do it.’ And she said, ‘good, I already enrolled you.”

When he arrived on campus, Fraboni was one of three snappers on the roster, along with then-juniors Easton Wahlstrom and Donnie Shields. He appeared in nine games on special teams, making three tackles and recovering a fumble.

Wahlstrom left early for the NFL Draft following the season, giving Fraboni an opportunity he wouldn’t give up.

Before the 2015 season, ASU hired Shawn Slocum as its special teams coach. Just a few months later, Fraboni was put on scholarship and given the starting long snapper job, forming a trio with kicker Zane Gonzalez and punter Matt Haack that would become one of the best kicking units in the Pac-12, if not the country.

“He’s a good human being, he’s a good teammate in the locker room,” Slocum said. “When he plays, he plays well, he does his job at a high level and does a good job of it.”

With both Gonzalez and Haack gone to the NFL, the unit had a new look entering the year, aside from the man in the middle, challenging him to usher in a new era of Sun Devil specialists in freshman kicker Brandon Ruiz and redshirt sophomore punter Michael Sleep-Dalton.

Along with the challenge of losing two pro-level talents, the unit had to deal with communication troubles at the start, as Fraboni, Ruiz and Sleep-Dalton had to get comfortable enough with each other.

“The transition is always different just because you’re not dealing with the same personalities,” Fraboni said. “Our biggest thing was trying to get on the same page as fast as we can and I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

Slocum praised him as a conduit between the staff and his teammates, making sure everyone was on the same page.

“He’s been kind of a buffer between coaching and playing,” Slocum said. “He was here with two very successful players and I think he’s kind of helped Brandon and Sleep with their expectation levels and day-to-day operations.”

Four years after walking on, Fraboni, along with the 16 other seniors on the roster, will play their final game at Sun Devil Stadium in Saturday’s Territorial Cup game. He said he hasn’t thought about it much, but expects a wave of emotion as he takes the field against Arizona.

“It sneaks up on you fast, to be honest,” Fraboni said. “It hasn’t really hit me, but I’m sure it’ll hit me as soon as I step out on the field on Saturday.”