Many nights he couldn't sleep or he would wake up in a sweat. "I thought it was normal," says Frank. "I'd always been intense for grades, so driven. But my anxiety level gradually grew." Late one night in the spring of '87, the pressure became overwhelming. Frank telephoned Glick from the library. "Stan, I need help," he said. "I've studied for 18 hours today."
"But John," Glick replied, "you already knew the material."
"I wanted to make sure I knew it," said Frank. "My father would want me to keep studying."
Glick told him to leave the library immediately and drive to his house. That night, he encouraged Frank to seek therapy. "I've never known anybody with such intensity," says Glick. "There was so much pressure from his family to achieve. John Frank wasn't John Frank. He was Alan Frank in John's body. Alan was telling John to do this. His father totally dominated his life."
When Alan was sentenced to prison last August, John felt a sense of freedom. More important, he began to think for himself. "Some people had associated my success in football with my father pushing me," says John. "They thought that when I was failing in the NFL, it was because we weren't communicating. I wanted to prove that I could do it on my own. And I think I did. I achieved the ultimate—playing for a Super Bowl champion—without him. I never made a Pro Bowl, but who's to say next year I wouldn't have broken my neck. Football was not worth the price I was paying. It's a dead-end street."
Frank's friends are pleased with his decision to retire. "John quit for himself and not for anyone else," says Glick. "He is setting goals by himself. He is doing what he has wanted to do since he was in the ninth grade. The John Frank of today is what every father wants a son to be—kind, gentle, mature, directed."
A few months ago Glick suggested John try speaking with Alan. Glick believed John felt guilty for having abandoned his dad. "I told John he couldn't keep running away from his father," says Glick. "In order for John to go on with his life, he must settle this. Quitting football and going to medical school won't be enough to make him happy. He needs his father back, without letting his father manipulate him."
John has recently written his father a couple of letters, which have gone unanswered. "I think he's embarrassed to see me in prison," says John. "The visit has to be on his terms. Only time will tell."
One morning in late July, the same day the 49er training camp opened in Rocklin, Calif., Frank stopped at Riverside Hospital in Columbus to observe hip-replacement and knee surgery on an elderly woman. David Halley, the surgeon, surprised Frank, asking him to assist by holding instruments. "It was unbelievable," says Frank. "I'm standing in front of the operating-room door, scrubbed with a moon suit on, thinking, Am I really doing this?"
The woman was alert during the procedure and babbled endlessly with Frank. "She had a degenerative right hip, and that screwed up her left knee," says Frank. "It was really intense surgery. We were working on her legs—the right was six inches shorter than the left—and three hours just flew by. Afterward, she asked me how her legs were. I told her they were the same length. She was so thrilled. She was lying on the table, thanking me over and over. I put my hand on hers and winked. I knew then I'd made the right decision."