Pitt Football Paying Tribute to Fralic at Saturday’s Opener vs. Virigina


PITTSBURGH — Pitt will pay tribute to one of the greatest players in the history of college football when it opens the 2019 season against Virginia on August 31.

(Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics)

The Panthers will honor the memory of legendary offensive lineman Bill Fralic, who passed away in December at the age of 56, by distributing commemorative rally towels featuring his famed 79 jersey number.

The Fralic family will be in attendance for the game and take part in a special on-field presentation.

“This will be our first home game since Bill’s passing and we wanted to do something special to honor his memory,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “It will be an incredible sight to see all those 79 towels waving at Heinz Field. Bill is a true Pitt and Pittsburgh icon who has an unforgettable legacy as a player and person.”

Available for sale that evening at Heinz merchandise stores will be replica Fralic 79 jerseys. Per the family’s wishes, a portion of each sale will be donated to the Pitt Athletics Scholarship Fund.

Fralic was a four-year fixture on Pitt’s punishing offensive lines from 1981-84. He was a three-time first team All-American, including unanimous status as a junior and senior. Fralic became the first offensive lineman to twice finish in the top 10 of the Heisman Trophy balloting, placing sixth in 1984 and eighth in 1983.

Fralic’s collegiate career led to the phrase “Pancake Block” being added to the football lexicon. Pitt publicists used “Pancakes” as a statistical barometer for each time Fralic put an opposing defensive lineman on his back.

His positional coach at Pitt, the late Joe Moore, was one of the nation’s most highly respected teachers of offensive line play. Said Moore of his star offensive tackle: “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.”

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 and was a two-time All-Pro. Fralic additionally was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.

Fralic’s No. 79 jersey was retired by Pitt at halftime of his final home game in 1984, a 21-10 win over Tulane. He would go on to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

A Western Pennsylvania native, Fralic became the first sophomore to letter in football at Penn Hills High School. He also became a WPIAL heavyweight wrestling champion for the Indians, compiling a 98-7 record on the mat.

Fralic was a member of the inaugural class of the WPIAL Hall of Fame in 2007. He was also a member of the inaugural Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame class that was enshrined in September 2018.


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