Pittsburgh — Bill Fralic, the burly, bruising and athletic offensive lineman who starred for the Atlanta Falcons, finished his career with the Lions and was a three-time All-American at Pittsburgh, has died. He was 56.
The school said Fralic had cancer and died Thursday at his home in suburban Atlanta.
Fralic was the first offensive lineman to finish in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy balloting — finishing eighth in 1983 and sixth in 1984. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998. The school retired his No. 79 at halftime of his final home game in 1984.
“Bill Fralic is the best,” Joe Moore, who worked as Pitt’s offensive-line coach during Fralic’s career, once said. “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 Falcons selected Fralic with the second overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. He spent nine seasons in the league, including eight as a fixture with the Falcons. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and earned All-Pro honors in 1986 and 1987. The NFL placed him on its All-Decade Team for the 1980s.
“Bill Fralic was not only an all-time player at the University of Pittsburgh, but also an all-time human being,” Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. “His generosity, support and concern for others was unmatched. For as hulking a figure as he was, Billy was even larger in his kindness and passion for others.”
Fralic’s playing career ended after the 1993 season with the Lions.
He was a radio analyst for Pitt and the Falcons following his retirement.
Fralic grew up in suburban Pittsburgh, starring at Penn Hill High School before joining the hometown Panthers. He never forgot his roots, footing the hotel bill for the Penn Hills football team last week when the Indians traveled to Hershey, Pa., to play in the Class 5 A state championship game, which they won.