- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
And when it comes to Fralic's football ability, what's not to like? He's a pro in college clothes. Says Pitt's nonpareil line coach, Joe Moore, "If ever there was a dream football player, it's him. Once a decade you get a guy who sets new standards. He's it for this decade."
Bill Davis, director of personnel for the Cleveland Browns, swears Fralic is the best offensive lineman in history. Gil Brandt of the Dallas Cowboys says everyone agrees Fralic is the best this season and likely the best in many years. Former Pitt teammate Bill Maas, a defensive tackle who was the Kansas City Chiefs' No. 1 pick in this year's draft, says, "When Fralic does something, you know you're seeing it done the best it can be."
Not surprisingly, he proved that once again last Saturday. Although Brigham Young, led by yet another gifted quarterback, junior Robbie Bosco, who completed 25 of 43 passes for 325 yards, upset the Panthers 20-14, Fralic played exceedingly well. He toyed with Jim Herrmann, BYU's talented defensive end. Herrmann, whose nose may grow long for saying, "I felt like I held my own against Fralic," was generously credited with four tackles, none of which were unassisted. Never did he get near Pitt quarterback John Congemi. "Every game, Fralic's man isn't in the picture, and he wasn't today," said Congemi.
It's just as Panther coach Foge Fazio says, "Some teams are righthanded. A few teams are lefthanded. We're Fralic-handed." That, however, can be a mixed blessing. Of the Panthers' 146 rushing yards on Saturday, 101 came behind Fralic. But when they needed them most, coach Foge Fazio looked elsewhere—and regretted it. Twice in the second quarter, once on the BYU two-yard line, Pitt faced fourth-and-two and was stopped. "They were stacked up there [opposite Fralic]," said Fazio. "Everyone in the stadium thought we were going that way, so we went the other way."
In the Panther grading scheme for game performance, 90 is considered superior for an offensive lineman. Fralic averages 96 and has never received anything less than a 92. "You never play as bad as you thought or as good as you thought," says Fralic. "The point is, if you're not getting better, you're getting worse. I'm a lot better now than I was then. All I know is things I do right, I could've done better. And things I do wrong, I shouldn't ever do again. When I get beat, it's not something my opponent did better; it's something I did wrong."
How does he do it? First, he was issued a body designed by God instead of one of God's assistants. "But you see quite a few bodies like that," says Moore, who in his four years as Pitt's line coach has produced more outstanding offensive linemen than any coach in the country (see box, page 38). "The secret is that he has the mentality of a 180-pound guard who's busting his ass all the time just to survive. He has that inner toughness. The great ones, though, have a little meanness about them. They're a little antisocial." A little? A big problem at Pitt is that practicing against Fralic isn't considered one of life's joys. Understand that when he faces someone of smaller size and/or inferior ability, he simply bears down and drills him unmercifully.
Fralic spends a good deal of time in the Panther weight room, below the sign that reads PITT IRON WORKS. Once, on the Fourth of July, he wandered around trying to find someone with a key to the room. As far back as eighth grade, his father had worried that Bill's school didn't have enough weights for him to lift. Fralic downplays his dedication. "It only takes three hours a day to work out, 15 hours a week," he says. "If you can't do that, it doesn't mean anything to you. I know I'm different from other players, but not better. Yet I just don't feel on the same level with them. I'm thinking different."
Andy Urbanic, who coached Fralic at Penn Hills High and is now the running-back coach at Pitt, is clicking game film back and forth and pointing out the wonders of Fralic. "For every lineman aspiring to be a great college player, Billy is his idol," says Urbanic. Click, click. "Look at his leverage, arms out, butt down. His body's under control, and his feet are so quick. He's on the balls of his feet, like a dancer, not back on his heels. He's an offensive lineman with defensive temperament." Click, click. The one-man wrecking crew handles everything—the stunts, the defensive twists, two men on him, no men on him, blocking on a moving linebacker.
Urbanic threads the Pittsburgh highlight film, and here comes running back Joe McCall against Notre Dame, desperately looking for room. He needs a block on the Irish corner-back. Naturally, Fralic arrives in the picture and knocks the defender out of contention. McCall goes 31 yards, down to the Notre Dame one. Fralic is unhappy. "After making that first block," he says, "I should've been able to get down and get the guy who got Joe on the one." That's Fralic. To accomplish the impossible only takes practice.
In 1983, when Pitt needed a touchdown against Maryland to win, the Panthers, starting on their own 37, ran 11 straight times behind Fralic, getting down to the Terp seven before a fumble ended the drive. Maryland won 13-7, but the point is, just like last week, everyone in the stadium knew those 11 plays would be run behind Fralic, and Maryland still couldn't stop them.