Nicholas Petit-Frere’s Sunday began with a tried-and-true bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Then came the bacon, kielbasa, egg and cheese sandwich. Not enough, he thought. So the Ohio State offensive tackle had some cereal “as a snack.”
For lunch, he pulled up the Tapingo app on his phone and ordered 12 wings from Buffalo Wild Wings. Still not enough. So he added a macaroni-and-cheese bowl to his order from the restaurant at the corner of High Street and Lane Avenue. That whisked away any feelings of hunger until dinner, when he ordered two burgers from Five Guys.
After forcing down the thousands of calories, Petit-Frere felt guilty, and not for the reason most people would after gorging themselves. He spent the past nine months at Ohio State with Mickey Marotti, Greg Studrawa and his teammates relentlessly harping on him to keep his weight up, and he couldn’t let them down. Petit-Frere determined he still had enough room in his stomach to force down some more calories.
“I started drinking some shakes at night because I was a little light, so I wanted to make sure I made weight today,” Petit-Frere said on Monday.
Unlike many Americans, Petit-Frere isn’t focused on losing weight. Far from it. Since arriving in Columbus as a five-star freshman last summer, he has tried to add as much weight as possible to his athletic 6-foot-5 frame.
“That's what everyone says. They're like, 'You have it lucky.’ I'm like, yeah, but sometimes when you're feeling you're about to yack and you've got to have that extra burger, you've just got to do it. Take one for the team.”– Nicholas Petit-Frere
Less than a year ago, when he set foot on campus for the first time he weighed 268 pounds, especially light for a Big Ten offensive tackle. Back then, though, he was too nervous to let Marotti know his weight, so he cheated the system.
“I drunk a little bit of water because I didn't want to look light in front of coach Mick,” Petit-Frere said. “So I was like 271 when I walked into the building that first day.”
Typically, he eats six meals per day, averaging about 8,000 calories consumed between when he wakes up and when he licks his lips following whatever late-night meal he polished off. Sometimes, he wakes up in the middle of the night to eat.
Petit-Frere doesn’t have a caloric goal. Instead, he has simple instructions about what to eat: “Really at the end of the day, it's whatever has the most amount of calories, although it may look disgusting.”
As of Monday, Petit-Frere weighed 295 pounds, the goal weight that he has to maintain this spring while engaged in a competition with Branden Bowen and Joshua Alabi to start at right tackle.
Petit-Frere described his metabolism as “really fast” and noted that part of the challenge of the “constant battle” of adding weight stems from his pickiness as an eater. During last summer, he got into a groove putting on pounds, but the progress ended when fall camp began and he wasn’t sure how to maintain the momentum.
Wyatt Davis remembers Petit-Frere not being allowed to go to offensive-line meetings without a muffin or bagel since he lost so much weight during practices in the fall.
“His plates in the morning when he gets here, I think he has to actually get here earlier so he has time to finish the plate and then get to meetings,” Davis said.
Davis, along with most of Ohio State’s other offensive linemen, just eats breakfast, lunch and dinner. He doesn’t have a specific caloric mark to hit, and after seeing Petit-Frere, he’s not particularly jealous.
“That's what everyone says. They're like, 'You have it lucky,’” Petit-Frere said. “I'm like, yeah, but sometimes when you're feeling you're about to yack and you've got to have that extra burger, you've just got to do it. Take one for the team. That extra burger. Take one for the team.”
He ate enough extra burgers and other food in the past few months to finally be at the point where he can focus on weight maintenance instead of weight gain.
With his weight finally at a number both he and his coaches are pleased with, Petit-Frere can focus on continuing his on-field development while engulfed in the right tackle battle with Bowen and Alabi. Both Bowen and Alabi – fifth-year linemen who have started a game – have advantage in experience over Petit-Frere, the second-year tackle who played in three of the first four games last year before not seeing the field the rest of the season and taking a redshirt.
But Petit-Frere, a top-10 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting cycle, has natural skills that stand out even on a line full of experienced former four-star and five-star recruits.
“He's going to be an amazing player,” Bowen said. “His feet are ridiculous. I've never seen faster feet on an O-lineman. He's finally getting that confidence. He's finally getting the playbook down, and he's getting to the point where he can really dominate.”
Petit-Frere entered Ohio State as the top-rated offensive lineman in his recruiting class, which has led to outsized expectations. Some fans wondered why he didn’t play much as a freshman or push Isaiah Prince for snaps, and many expect him to win the starting job this spring simply due to his recruiting ranking.
While Petit-Frere hears from those outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center who want him to excel at the level supporters expect from a five-star recruit, they don’t motivate or surprise him, for he has similar sky-high goals.
“Well, it's my expectations,” Petit-Frere said. “It's not really expectations of, 'Oh, he was rated a five-star guy,' or whatever.”
Thus, Petit-Frere laughed on Monday at the notion that he had come close to meeting his expectations.
Goals? Yes, he had met some of those. But his expectations? Not even close.
“I really want to do a lot for this university,” Petit-Frere said. “I want to make sure I do a lot for this team for a lot of the players coming in, a lot of the players that have been before me. I really want to perform well. It's going to take a while, but I'm ready for it.”
In order to make the next on-field steps in his development, Petit-Frere needs to improve in every facet of his game.
He describes the next phase in his process as “learning the game to master the craft.”
“I've been learning the game. I've been studying, watching film. I've been showing a lot of effort, coach Stud's been saying I'm giving a lot of effort,” Petit-Frere said. “But I've got to master the craft. I've got to be able to go out to the field, call every single blitz out. I've got to be able to go out to the field, call every single blitz out. Got to be able to go out to the field, know every single rifle, know what the team's expecting for this week, be prepared for the team coming up next week.
“I've got to master my steps and everything about that. It's so much to really being prepared and ready to go. Just master my craft.”
Petit-Frere knows he has a long way to go to fulfill all the potential standing in his size-17 shoes.
He hopes he can begin to do so in the fall as the starting right tackle, though Bowen and Alabi pose stiff challenges. When he left home for Columbus, Petit-Frere had goals, but he didn't have a specific year he hopes to ascend and become a starter.
“Just whenever I was ready,” Petit-Frere said. “I said when I'm ready, I'll be ready.”
So, is he ready?
“I feel ready,” Petit-Frere said. “There's still a lot to go. We're only halfway through spring, really, but trust me, I'm going to keep fighting. I'm going to keep giving out a lot of effort. I'm going to keep working hard.”