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Pitt great Bill Fralic honored as namesake of WPIAL award

The award will honor the top lineman in the Pittsburgh-area league

Pitt Panthers Bill Fralic

Former Pitt offensive lineman Bill Fralic will be honored as the namesake of a WPIAL award beginning in the 2019 season. The Bill Fralic Award is the end result of an effort by the William P. Fralic Foundation to preserve the memory of the former Penn Hills High School star who died at the age of 56 last December after battling cancer.

The award will be similar in nature to college football’s Outland Trophy, as it will be given to the top lineman in the WPIAL. Nominees will be submitted by coaches from each WPIAL program, and one finalist from each of the league’s six classifications will be selected by a seven-man committee comprised of people with ties to Fralic or Pitt.

“When Bill passed away, we wanted to do whatever we could to keep relevant his memory,” Dan Miller, a member of the William P. Fralic Foundation’s board of trustees, told Bill Beckner Jr. of the Tribune-Review. “He was arguably the most dominant lineman to ever play in the WPIAL. Some of the younger people don’t know his story. They might know him as the name on a building. You mention great lineman and Penn Hills, and they mention Aaron Donald. But Bill was outstanding.”

Fralic remains a legendary figure at Penn Hills High School, where he became the first sophomore letterman in school history, became the WPIAL heavyweight wrestling champion as a junior, and earned Parade All-American and Dial Male Athlete of the Year honors as a senior. In 1981, Fralic moved on to Pitt, where his reputation became such that Notre Dame defensive lineman Eric Dorsey compared him to a god and the term “pancake block” was coined by Pitt media relations reps to articulate the way he manhandled opponents and left them on their backs.

The imposing lineman, who stood 6’5” and weighed 285 pounds during the peak of his career, had his number, 79, retired in a halftime ceremony during his last game at Pitt in 1984. He is one of just 10 players and three offensive linemen in the football program’s 129-year history to earn the honor, with the others being Jimbo Covert and Mark May. All three are now members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

As for the Bill Fralic Award, the six finalists will be revealed on Oct. 31, which was Fralic’s birthday. The winner will then be honored at the Oakmont Country Club in December with a pancake breakfast.