Bill Fralic, one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history, passed away on December 13, 2018, at the age of 56. He was diagnosed with cancer earlier that year and fought bravely until the end. His death shocked and saddened the football world, as he was remembered for his outstanding career, his integrity, and his generosity.
Who was Bill Fralic?
Bill Fralic was born on October 31, 1962, in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. He was a star athlete in high school, excelling in football, wrestling, and track and field. He was named the male high school athlete of the year by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
He attended the University of Pittsburgh on a football scholarship, where he played offensive tackle for the Panthers from 1981 to 1984. He was a three-time All-American, a two-time unanimous All-American, and the UPI Lineman of the Year in 1984. He was known for his trademark “pancake block”, which involved flattening his opponents to the ground. He was also a teammate of future Hall of Famers Jimbo Covert and Dan Marino.
He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round with the second overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. He played for the Falcons from 1985 to 1992, and for the Detroit Lions in 1993. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, a two-time First-team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. He was regarded as one of the best and toughest guards in the league, and a fierce run blocker. He was also one of the first players to speak openly about the pervasiveness of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, and advocated for stricter testing and penalties.
He retired from the NFL in 1993, after nine seasons and 132 games. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998, and had his number 79 jersey retired by the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. He was also a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and 2006, but did not make the cut.
How did Bill Fralic die?
Bill Fralic died on December 13, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia, after a battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with the disease earlier that year, and underwent treatment at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. He kept his condition private, and only informed his close friends and family. He did not reveal the type or stage of his cancer.
His death was announced by the University of Pittsburgh, which released a statement from his family. The statement read: “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father and brother, Bill Fralic. Bill was a force of nature, on and off the field, and his strong, positive influence will be missed by all who knew him. We are grateful for the outpouring of love and support from so many people in his life, especially his former teammates and colleagues. We ask that you keep Bill and our family in your thoughts and prayers” .
His former teams, the Falcons and the Lions, also expressed their condolences and praised his legacy. The Falcons said: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of Bill Fralic, one of the greatest players in Falcons history, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family. Bill was a cornerstone of our organization for seven years and was one of the most dominant offensive linemen ever to play the game. He was also a great leader, mentor and humanitarian. He represented our franchise and our city with class, and we will always be grateful for his contributions to our team and community” .
The Lions said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Fralic. Bill was a tremendous player and person, and a valued member of our organization in 1993. He brought a wealth of experience, toughness and leadership to our locker room, and helped us reach the playoffs that year. He was respected and admired by his teammates, coaches and staff, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends”.
What is Bill Fralic’s legacy?
Bill Fralic’s legacy is that of a football legend, a man of integrity, and a generous philanthropist. He is widely considered as one of the best offensive linemen of all time, and a pioneer in exposing the issue of steroids in sports. He is also remembered for his contributions to his alma mater, his community, and his profession.
He donated millions of dollars to the University of Pittsburgh, where he established the Bill Fralic Athletic Scholarship Fund, the Bill and Susan Fralic Center for Academic Success, and the Fralic Family Locker Room. He also supported the Pitt football program, the Pitt wrestling program, and the Pitt Alumni Association. He was a member of the Pitt Board of Trustees, the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame Committee, and the Pitt Varsity Letter Club.
He was involved in various charitable causes, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He also founded the Bill Fralic Foundation, which provided scholarships and grants to student-athletes and youth organizations in the Atlanta area.
He was a leader and a mentor in his profession, serving as the president of the NFL Players Association from 1988 to 1990, and as a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee from 1987 to 1993. He also worked as a color commentator for college football games on Fox Sports and ESPN, and as a radio host on 680 The Fan in Atlanta.
He was a devoted husband to his wife Susan, a loving father to his son William and his daughter Rachel, and a loyal brother to his siblings Bob, Jim, Tom, and Mary. He was a man of faith, who attended the Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.
He was a role model, an inspiration, and a friend to many, who touched countless lives with his talent, his courage, and his kindness. He was a force of nature, on and off the field, and his strong, positive influence will be missed by all who knew him. He was Bill Fralic, and he was a legend.