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retired jersey bill fralic

Bill Fralic #

"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.

Following 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.

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