As far back as 9 years old, Commerce’s Jake Frates dreamed of attending Harvard. He won’t have to dream anymore.
Frates is set to play football for the Crimson — following a year of prep school — after publicly committing to the prestigious Ivy-League school with a Thursday (June 17) Twitter post.
“It was definitely not always the plan, but always the dream,” he said.
Frates will spend a year at Williston Northampton School, also located in Massachusetts, before moving on to Harvard as a 2022 signee. He will receive a full ride from the Crimson through what Frates described as “a super-comprehensive athletic-based financial aid.”
Frates is possibly the first Commerce student to ever attend an Ivy League school.
“I think maybe this is the first time ever that we’ve had an Ivy-League kid, much less an Ivy-League athlete,” Commerce athletic director/principal Will Smith said.
Smith said Frates’ accomplishment is well-earned.
“Nobody deserves it more,” he said. “(He’s) just a role model. If you could have every kid like him, it would be a wonderful world, that’s for sure.”
Frates, an honor graduate possessing one of Commerce’s highest SAT scores and a 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame, was highly sought-after for his athletic and academic prowess.
He held offers from there other Ivy League schools — Yale, Columbia and Dartmouth — before committing to Harvard. He also drew interest from Division I-FBS programs and academic powerhouses Stanford and Georgia Tech. Frates also had conversations with a host of other programs. He said he considered both wrestling and playing football at Columbia.
“That would have been a little tough,” he said.
Frates pointed to the efforts of others at Commerce in helping him achieve his Ivy-League dreams. He praised former Commerce head coach Michael Brown and coach Jake Setzer for developing him as a player and advocating for him during his recruitment and Smith for his assistance in the intensive admissions process.
To that end, Smith called the process a multi-month endeavor.
“This is a live interview with me, with several teachers, as a committee,” Smith said. “… It’s something I’ve never been a part of. It was literally a months-long application.”
“It takes a lot to get into Harvard,” Smith added.
Smith explained that Williston Northampton School holds the same admissions criteria as Harvard.
“So, if you make it to the prep school, you’re guaranteed at Harvard,” he said
Frates landed a Division-I scholarship opportunity despite being relatively new to football. Primarily a wrestler growing up, Frates, other than a stint in rec ball as a youngster, has only played the sport since his junior season.
But Frates snagged 11 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown as a senior in a run-heavy triple option offense, earning all-region honors at tight end. He also went on to claim his second career state wrestling title this past winter.
Frates said contact with Harvard began during his junior season when Crimson coaches began following him on Twitter after other Ivy League schools had started doing so.
“Things just went from there,” Frates said.
When he received a scholarship offer from longtime Harvard coach Tim Murphy in August of 2020, he committed the following day, but remained a quiet commit until Thursday’s announcement.
Frates will likely play defense at Harvard, potentially at outside linebacker. The original plan was to use him as a tight end or H-back. But after coaches saw film of Frates playing defense early on this past season for the Tigers, contact with Harvard’s passing-game coordinator gave way to communication from the defensive coaches.
“They kind of subtly started introducing me to all the defensive staff,” Frates said, “and that’s just how it happened.”
Frates will have time to grow and gain experience since he’s taking the prep-school route at Willston Northampton, where he visited last week.
“This is especially helpful because I've only played two seasons of football and academically it will only make this transition easier,” Frates said.
Academically, Frates’ interests lie in economics and government with a specific focus on fiscal and monetary policy. He hopes to parlay his Harvard education into a job in private equity and fund management.
But that’s the goal, but not necessarily the dream.
“Some sort of elected office is definitely the dream,” said Frates, who described himself as “not too much into politics” but “big into policy.”
Frates said he’s incredibly excited for his Harvard future, calling it “one of the best feelings in my life.”
“It’s a privilege … I can’t fail to recognize how big of an opportunity this is for me,” he said. “If Alabama offered and Harvard offered, I would still go to Harvard. This is exactly where I want to be.”
And at least one person from Commerce High School will be there when he plays his first football game.
“I said, ‘I will be at that first game, man,’” Smith said. “‘The day you put a jersey on, I will be in Boston at Harvard to be able to watch you.’ That’s how proud I am of him.”