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Fralic isn't basking in his perfection. "I talked to Coach Moore the other day," he says, "or rather, he talked to me. He told me I just had to become more fanatical, become more confident, get stronger, get faster. I will do all those things." Moore, however, downplays his role, saying, "You can only coach 'em as good as they are. You can't take 'em to a level they can't see." Fralic sees.
Naturally, Fralic's teammates are star-struck. Fullback Marlon McIntyre says, "It's like running behind a mountain. He's never down." Offensive guard Bobby Brown says, "He doesn't just beat people, he beats them up. If you get your guy, you don't have to worry about him getting his." Says left guard Mike Dorundo with a chuckle, "Fralic's big advantage is that he plays next to me."
When asked about all the money Fralic will make next year when he signs a pro contract, his father, who has been laid off by the Edgewater Steel Company for nearly two years, says, "I've survived this long without a millionaire son." Like his son, Mr. Fralic is a down-to-earth kind of guy. "If Bill believed half of what he hears about himself," he says, "you couldn't find a helmet big enough to fit him."
Fazio isn't shy about calling Fralic in and letting him have it, usually over lack of academic effort. "I scream at him that he's a big jerk," says Fazio, "and he just sits there, bows his head, takes it and feels ashamed." School, frankly, isn't a major concern for Fralic. A business major, he has a 2.65 grade-point average. In high school, his average was a pedestrian 2.3, which clearly doesn't reflect his I.Q. of 120. He never failed a class at Penn Hills, but he did pull down a D in cooking and, alas, in physical education. He graduated 609th in a class of 1,030 students in 1981. The school did retire his No. 67 jersey, and Fralic is proof of the words that appear on a plaque in the office of principal Edward C. Hoover: THERE IS NO ONE ROAD TO SUCCESS. THERE ARE AS MANY AS THERE ARE MEN WILLING TO BUILD THEM.
Stretched out on the Pitt locker room floor after another intense workout with the weights, Fralic is reflective. "I realize that football may be silly, but it's what I do," he says. "It's what I was meant to do. If you want to talk silly, how about being a movie star? That's sillier than football. Because no matter what you say about football, it's real. What I love about football is, first, it's a challenge and, second, conquering that challenge. I'm always getting ready for that test of what's inside of me—and what's inside that guy across from me. If I knock him on his butt and he doesn't want to be knocked on his butt, I feel good about myself. There is a sense of power. But football isn't a fun sport. It's just something I feel compelled to do. I get great happiness from it. And great sadness."
He experienced sadness of another sort last Friday, when an interview with him in the student newspaper, The Pitt News, became national news. Among the topics covered was how he likes to spend his time away from football. His answer: "I like to play golf and go —— girls and get drunk. If you can put that in there, I don't care." Typically, Fralic was candid after Saturday's game in talking about the article. "The reporter was so ill at ease doing the interview that I just wanted to make a little joke and make him feel better," he said. "Look, I don't profess to be the cleanest-mouthed guy, but I'm a single male. However, I learned I should be more cautious, and I learned I was naive. But I never professed to be an angel or a genius." Fair enough. He didn't try to lie his way out of a mess; he didn't blame others any more than he blamed himself; and he didn't sulk and hide from the press. In short, his assessment of his remarks was as mature as the remarks were immature.
The point never to be lost is that Fralic is a world-class football player. In 1981, he became the first Panther player to start the first game of his freshman year since Tony Dorsett did so in 1973. When Fralic was forced into the fray that season because of injuries to others, he told an apprehensive Moore, "Coach, I'll do the best I can. And if my guy beats me, remember, he'll have to beat me again on the next play." Fat chance. These days, Fralic can play anywhere on the offensive line. What's his best position? Says Moore, "Anchor. Look, if we didn't have him, we might be on defense the whole time."
Fralic attributes much of his success—as do the other offensive linemen—to Moore, who also has the title of assistant head coach. Every senior who has started for Moore in the four years he has coached the offensive line is now in the NFL. Says Fazio of Moore, "In one sentence, he can challenge his players' manhood, their religion, their neighborhood, their mother—and get away with it. He'll scream at one of them for three days, then on the fourth, not talk to him at all."
Moore's philosophy is to have only 15 offensive linemen on the team at a time—as opposed, say, to Nebraska, which may have 25—because "it's very hard for a young man to handle being way down on a depth chart. The only way he can be fourth team here is if we eliminate the third team." Without apology, Moore stresses his players' pro football futures as being their most important priority—yes, ahead of academics. Though that attitude flies in the face of the usual pious statements emanating from universities, it's brutally honest. "To put football second in their lives now," says Moore, "would be foolish."
And foolish is one thing Moore is not. Brandt says Moore gets results because he "may be the best line coach in college football." Change "may" to "is" and you've got it. A legendary coach at four high schools in New York and Western Pennsylvania over a 17-year span, during which he built a record of 119-32-4, Moore explains his success this way: "I'm a little nuts. It takes that. If you're not psyched, it won't happen." Actually, Moore is a lot nuts and a lot psyched, and those are traits with which offensive linemen can identify.