Legendary Pitt Offensive Lineman Bill Fralic passed today.  Please feel free to leave a passing thought or memory.

Here is the complete text of the piece on PittsburghPanthers.com about Fralic when Pitt retired his Jersey.

#HailtoPitt #HailtoFralic

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“Forget Superman. He’s the sissy who has to leap over tall buildings. Fralic knocks them down.”

  • Joe Gilmartin, The Phoenix Gazette

It must have been a disguise.

The baby boy born to William and Dorothy Fralic on Halloween of 1962 tipped the scales at seven pounds, three ounces. Who could have predicted this growth rate?

At the age of nine, Bill Fralic weighed 175 pounds. As an eighth grader, he stood 6-foot-3 and weighed 235 pounds. And tales of his size are now almost as numerous (and legendary) as what he has accomplished in athletics.

“I’ve always been big,” Fralic told former UPI writer Pohla Smith during an interview from Fralic’s playing days at Pitt. “I was always the biggest guy in my class — even in grade school.”

At the age of 13, Fralic developed a passion for weightlifting. Somewhat envious of his older brothers Mike and Joe, who would also grow up to play college football, young Bill wanted to pump the iron and develop his frame as well, even to the point of enlisting Mrs. Fralic to serve as spotter if the two older boys weren’t around.

Andy Urbanic, who was the football coach at Penn Hills, and then an assistant at Pitt during part of Fralic’s career with the Panthers, remembers the uncommon dedication in Bill.

“I never remember a kid who had such specific goals at such an early age,” Urbanic said. “He not only wanted to be a football player, but an offensive tackle in the NFL.”

Fralic became the first sophomore ever to letter at Penn Hills, where he also became the WPIAL heavyweight wrestling champion as a junior and a Parade football All-American as a senior. That same year, he was named Dial Male Athlete of the Year, the same honor which went to Herschel Walker the year before.

Considering his prolific career and reputation as an offensive lineman, few may remember that Fralic’s initial preseason (1981) camp at Pitt included a persistent question: ‘Will Fralic play offensive or defensive line?’

Offensive line coach Joe Moore was the happiest man in training camp when it was resolved to play Fralic at offensive tackle, in the spot vacated by Outland Trophy winner Mark May following the 1980 season.

After the Panthers’ 1983 win against Notre Dame in South Bend, the accolades began to pick up in intensity.

“It’s [playing against Fralic] something I can tell my kids 30 years from now,” said Notre Dame defensive lineman Eric Dorsey. “I’ve read so much about him; it’s like playing against a god. When you think of Pitt, you think of Bill Fralic.”

Said Pitt coach Foge Fazio: “I haven’t seen a better offensive lineman as a player or as a coach. I can’t believe anybody can be better than Bill.”

And from his line coach, Joe Moore, who was one of the nation’s most highly respected teachers at that position: “Bill Fralic is the best. If you can find somebody better, bring him to me. I’ve been privileged to coach some good ones here, but none better than Bill Fralic. Those kind only pass through once.”

Fralic was a three-time All-American for the Panthers and was the only underclassman to be among the four finalists for the Lombardi Award as a junior in 1983.

For Fralic’s senior year, in an effort to find a tangible tool for Fralic’s accomplishments, the Pitt Sports Information Office conceived the “Pancake,” a statistical barometer for each time Fralic put an opposing defensive lineman on his back. An intern monitored every Pitt offensive play to determine the number of times the Panthers ran the play over Fralic’s position. In a 1983 game at Maryland, Pitt ran 11 consecutive plays over its star tackle.

Fralic’s number 79 Pitt jersey was retired in 1984 at halftime of his final home game, a 21-10 win over Tulane.

The second player taken overall in the 1985 NFL Draft, Fralic went on to an exceptional pro career from 1985-93, playing eight years with the Atlanta Falcons and his final season with the Detroit Lions. He was selected to the Pro Bowl four times.

In 1998, Fralic earned one more accolade for his illustrious Pitt career when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

44 thoughts on “Bill Fralic: Open Memorial Thread

  1. Post-Gazette Sports@PGSportsNow
    36 minutes ago
    Penn Hills athletic director Stephanie Strauss said if not for Bill Fralic’s donation, the team would not have been able to travel to Hershey for its PIAA championship game.

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  2. A sad day for his family and Pitt Football followers. It sounds like his death was unexpected since he was so involved only last week with contributing the money needed for Penn Hills trip to Hershey.

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  3. Fralic was the most dominating O lineman I have ever seen at the college level. He really did pancake the guys he was blocking. Gone far too soon, but he his legacy will live on at Pitt. RIP Bill.

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  4. Truly a sad day for Pitt nation. RIP Bill. Your kindness and generosity will never be forgotten by those at Penn Hills. You will live on as a legend at Pitt.

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  5. Bill Fralic was a true Pitt and Penn Hills Legendary player.

    Watched him and Tom Flynn win a WPIAL title, was natural for them to go to Pitt in the early 80’s.

    Nowadays they would probably head for greener pastures.

    It was pure joy to watch him flatten the opposition.

    Bill contributed the Fralic Field House at Penn Hills, which shows what a great philanthropist he was.

    Obviously his donation to send the team to Hershey is further evidence of his heart.

    He was a pretty low key color man on the Pitt broadcast, but always told it like it was. He was pretty furious when Wanny was let go and let it be known.

    He bled red and gold and then blue and gold.

    He is gone way to young.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Saw every one of his games at Pitt stadium. Sad.
    Wikipedia says long bout with cancer.

    Thanks for being a big part of my Pitt experience. Peace.

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  7. I don’t even know if they still do it, but they use to list the members of the Pitt Letterman Club in the football programs. Since lettermen were listed alphabetically, my name was right after the legendary Bill Fralic.

    Always felt bad for Bill about that.

    He should have had his very own list.

    Condolences to his family and may Bill sleep in heavenly peace.

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  8. from a WVU alum…

    Marc Bulger@MarcBulger10
    Lost a legend, family member. Bill Fralic was intelligent, TOUGH, giving, and compassionate. Rare. RIP brother. We will have that next 18. This just a rain delay.

    and another PG tweet; forgot his number was retired during his final game

    Craig Meyer@CraigMeyerPG
    It may be a relic from a different time, but imagine how undeniably excellent you have to be to have your number retired at halftime of your damn senior day. He was a little before my time, but Bill Fralic seemed like something else

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Well I spent a fair amount of time with Bill for 5 or 6 years. I have to say he had no big time in him. He was nice to everyone that came up to him.
    It was hard to believe how many people would stop him. Hey Buddy was the phrase he would use.
    RIP William you were a stand up guy

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  10. Truly saddened by the loss of Bill Fralic. My wife attended Penn Hills High with Bill and has always said what a nice guy he was to everyone.
    I only met him once and got a picture of Bill and my wife at a Pitt bowl game ( I think the tangerine bowl) pool side.
    Ike, excellent article on the previous post. I agree with your take on Dr. Michaelangelo.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Being a former player and coach for over 35 years Bill Fralic was the idol of every coach not only for his great play but for most in my mind was he was always drug free and against drugs. He once sent me autographed pictures for my lineman saying to go it the right way. I watched him play for his college years and have never seen a more devasting tackle. My sons were raised to model him and attended Pitt because on him. He did a great service to our school. The world and football would be a great place if everyone had his attitude and kind heart. He will always be part of our lives. May he Rest In Peace H2P H 2 Bill Fralic #79.

    Liked by 6 people

  12. Thinking about Bill Fralic, I suddenly feel very old. It seems like yesterday when he was pancaking people. And when you look at his peers of that time like Russ Grimm, Mark May and Covert, it was an amazing confirmation that Pitt can indeed recruit these level of players.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Voice…we are old… went to Pitt Penn State game, I think 83 at State College. Pitt was having a lousy year and maybe had won 3-4 games. Peds were favored by 17.5. My friend Nate and I agreed to leave at halftime if the score got too bad. Foge ran over Fralic all day and no one from the Dairy college could stop Pitt. Game was over by the 3rd quarter and Pitt won easily. The utter joy we got from watching the Ped fans leaving in tears and listening to post game with Fran Fisher was most satisfying. Rest In Peace big guy. No one ever represented Pitt better!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Welcome back Emel, although it is a sad occasion that paved your return. Bill Fralic was at Pitt when I was at Pitt. There were some great O-lineman playing for Pitt when I was in school, but none greater than Bill. And I bet they would all say the same, he was truely special to watch.

      I had forgotten that his jersey was retired at halftime of his Senior Day in 1984.

      The best thing that I am getting from the press clippings is that Bill Fralic was even more “special” off the FB field.

      RIP Bill Fralic – you have made Pitt proud, again!

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  14. Couple of different versions of this story circulating around but I’ll go with this one. Bill Fralic was caddying for Jackie Sherrill during the summer after his eighth grade when Sherrill asked him how old he was. Fralic responded by saying he was going to a freshman. Sherrill said, oh yeah, what college are you going to a when BF said I’m going to be freshman in high school not college. The rest is history.

    R. I. P. Bill Fralic

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  15. What a great player and a great look Fralic had as a lineman wearing #79. What a shame how football went at Pitt in 1983 and ’84 when Fralic was the face of the program. Not batting the pass down on fourth down that enabled DJ Dozier to make a great catch so Joe could tie the game in 1983; then in the Fiesta Bowl the linebacker not holding onto the ball would have ended the game versus Ohio State.

    Great players like Fralic deserved better from his teammates and the university. I’m so proud that he was a Pitt guy and when there was a real up and coming lineman in college, that player was always compared to Fralic. Tony Mandarich was the last guy who I remember who drew those comparisons to Fralic.

    I was shocked to read in the Favre book, Gunslinger, how ruthless Fralic was when it came to hazing the rookies in the pros. It was almost just as important as winning.

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  16. A huge loss for all. People like Bill Fralic don’t come along every day. Has anyone else in football history had their number retired at half time of their final game? H2P!!! always!

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  17. Never met the man personally but watched as often as possible, his exploits on the field. Thanks all for your personal stories about this Pitt Man.

    Standing up for Pitt and promoting them over the last 35 years must have been difficult, yet he did so in a professional manner. Thank you to Mr. Fralic for what you did off the field. #respect.

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  18. I regret that I was in college in West Virginia during the Bill Fralic era and missed seeing this obvious legend during his Pitt days. The POV accolades are bringing a tear to my eye and lump in my throat though. God bless you Bill Fralic, RIP.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Ike, Hillgrove was at Alcoma gc when Fralic was an 8th grader carrying 2 bags at the time…saw it on the news this morning.
    EE…excellent idea with the 7 and 9 irons. I’m still playing some too. Will do the same.

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  20. For me, Bill Fralic was not a man amongst boys – he was a monster amongst men! He was part of an era that most of us watched together at Pitt Stadium. When I moved to Dallas, TX in 1982, giving up my season tickets in Fran’s Section 4 ( but got to go to the Cotten Bowl), when I wore my Pitt stuff Dallasites would stop me and tell me we have the BEST football program in the NATION!! Heck, some of those Texans ( as big college fans ) even told me they flew to Pittsburgh to experience Pitt at Pitt Stadium as it was on their bucket list!!!!
    Hence, it’s just worn me out to be like the Jewish nation wandering in the dessert for 40 years trying the find the Promised Land. When I look at all those great teams back then and what we are now really makes me sad.
    Thank you, Bill Fralic, for how proud you made us back when we meant something in the college football world.
    R.I.P.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Hey Jim, think about this. Those uniforms back in that day had and played a smaller part in the exposure of the PITT football program. They played great and looked great along with icons like BF and others blew the entire country away at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. My deepest condolences to the family & friends of Bill Fralic. May you RIP. I hate cancer it’.s insidious and evil. Lost my Mom to it and my best friends wife who was 39 and an amazing woman in her own right.

    I loved watching/attending Pitt during his collegiate career (I started in the Fall 83). Thank you for the wonderful memories and standing tall and taking a stand on PED’s

    May God bless your soul.

    Dave

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  23. Sad news indeed.

    Fralic liked the POV although he did say “some of that crap is way out there” which was true also. I’d get an email every once in a while… usually with a correction of something I wrote and I’d make the change.

    He was a regular at The Partying Panther’s tailgates, always with other players, going back to DW’s time. Very humble man.

    Liked by 1 person

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