|Pittsburgh Sports Talk|
Pittsburgh Sports Talk Pittsburgh Sports Talk
|Pittsburgh Sports Talk|
Joe Moore & Bill Fralic-How Blessed Were We?
Buddy Morris, the famed Pitt weight strength coach, penned a letter to the Pitt Panther team as we headed into the 1984 off season. I still have it. Buddy quotes Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie, Conan the Barbarian.
The tribes wizard asks of Conan, “Conan, what is best in life?”
Conan replies, “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you. And to hear the lamentation of their women.” Buddy urged us to work hard during the off season and, like Conan, prepare for battle.
This was the mentality of our Pitt football team back then. Years have passed now since then. My hair is gray and my body broken. But not I realize that we had our own wizard in Coach Joe Moore and our own Conan in “Bull” Fralic.
Coach Moore is a legend among offensive linemen. To this day in Mt. Lebanon annually is the Joe Moore O-Line Camp. Young O-Lineman come to learn from the games best past and present. They come to pass on what Coach Moore had taught them so many years ago.
“The Joe Moore Award” annually recognizes the nations best college offensive line unit. The unit that best displays toughness, effort, teamwork, consistency, technique and “finishing” is bestowed with the award.
He coached at Upper St. Clair, PITT and Notre Dame to name a few.
All of that is his legacy and how he is honed and remembered to this day, even though he left us in 2003.
To say Coach was loved by his players is an understatement. Adored, revered, and honored. When God himself made the mold for what a football Coach should be, he formed it after Joe Moore.
I first remember him from Jackie Sherrill's Football Camp when I was in 8th grade. And then Coach Fazio's Football Camps. Coach Moore stands out to this day. What I learned from Joe Moore over my high school years helped me earn All-Conference honors at Latrobe and become team MVP in 1983.
To this day, even though I'm old and gray and broken, I can still “punch block” and contain most men my age. Coach Moore taught me that. As he did to many.
By the time I was a scrub team inside linebacker playing for Coach Fazio, Coach Moore had molded men in his image and sent them onto the pro's. Men like Jimbo Covert and Mark May to name a few. I used to keep Mark May's picture from PITT in my high school locker. I was a PITT man all the way.
He looked like the living embodiment of , “The Grinch”. He would watch and study, watch and study. His mind was always going, you knew that by just watching him. He knew a football player when he saw one.
Then with his ever present cigarette dangling from his mouth, he would bark like a Drill Sargent. You have certainly seen, “Full Metal Jacket”.
R. Lee Ermy, as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, screams his commands at his would be Marines. Always with a funny, salty side dish of humor on top like a cherry.
If you combine the looks of “The Grinch” and the booming, funny voice of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, you now have a image of Coach Joe Moore in your mind.
He'd chide, motivate and correct each player, like a Swiss watch maker. Tinkering to get the very best out of his men. Oh, he was funny too when he wanted to be.
He wouldn't limit his remarks to his offensive lineman either. Anyone on the field was open game to a Coach Moore ribbing. And God forbid if he decided to ramp up the defense that was going against his O-Line. Then a battle would rage.
Coach Moore loved each and everyone of his players, as if they were his sons. Sure he'd scream and demand your best on the field. But off the field, he was a kind, gentle, and loving man.
He was the one I went too and talked too when I left PITT and decided to join the U.S. Army. He and Coach Andy Urbanic, Fralic's high school coach, were two of the best and nicest Coach's I ever had.
College football wasn't working out for me. You eventually realize that there are bigger, stronger, and faster animals out there. They too were “All-Something” in high school. I wanted to always Coach football, and I figured I'd learn from the best at PITT. But the best laid plans of mice and men and time goes on.
God has a funny sense of humor. He had bestowed upon the PITT football team the man who in time would be recognized as the “Greatest Offensive Line Coach of All Time” in Joe Moore.
Why not give Coach Moore the “Greatest College Offensive Lineman to have Ever Played the Game” named Bill “Bull” Fralic to Coach?
When God made the mold for what an Offensive Lineman should be, look like and act like, he made Bill Fralic.
He stood 6'5 and weighed 280lbs of pure, raw muscle. His helmet barely fit onto his head and neck. When Coach Moore preached about finishing the block, Fralic listened, understood, and executed.
You simply can not understand how quick, fast and strong Fralic was. Intense? My God he was the definition of Intensity.
When Coach Fazio passed away I had Bill call into my tv show on WBGN TV. Buc Bucowski and Joey Felitsky both came into the studio that night and we talked about PITT and fond memories of another nice man, Coach Foge Fazio.
Afterward we met up with Fralic and some other's at Cipionio's Cigar bar in the strip district. I told “Bull” the story of my very first play at PITT.
We were at Edinboro College for fall Camp.
I was playing scrub team right inside linebacker. Ironhead had forced me out at any chance at Fullback. Across from me was #79. I thought nothing of it. As I looked into the backfield, our new running back, Ironhead Hayward, was looking right at the hole.
I knew where the ball was going. And as soon as the ball was snapped I took off. I was two yards into the backfield and had Ironhead dead to rights in my sights.
Wow, this was easy. As I went in to make the tackle, my head suddenly snapped and turned a complete 180 degrees behind me. A massive hand was on my face mask.
Before I knew what had happened. Fralic had his knee in my chest and somehow was slamming my head like a bobble head doll off the dirt of the field.
I will never forget his face inches from mine. If you were to combine an angry Rottweiler and the Devil himself, this is what I saw through my face mask. The picture in this story should give you an idea of what I was dealing with.
As “Bull” screamed at me, “Don't ever do that again!” I was useless the rest of practice.
As I told this story to “Bull”, he laughed and said I don't remember doing that.
I was nothing, a nobody at PITT. Men like Fralic, Doleman, Benson, Ironhead, John Congemi, Randy Dixon and so many more who played professional football after their career's at PITT, now they were football players.
People ask me, “What position did you play at PITT?” I always make the joke that I played “left bench”. There was the water cooler, the Panther mascot and then me on the bench # 00.
I told that to “Bull” that night as well. The greatest offensive lineman to ever play the game looked at me and said, “Hey, Tank. You took the hits. You were on the team.”
You can not understand how impactful, meaningful and important those worlds will forever be to me. If you know me you know that I really don't give a damn what people think of me, unless I respect them for who they are.
The 1980's were filled with movies with fake tough guys, Arnold, Stallone, Calude Van Dammne, Bruce Willis.
Bill "Bull" Fralic was the real deal action super star! If you locked all of those guys in a room, and threw away the key. Let me ask you, who do you think is going to walk out that door in the end?
Bill Fralic was one of the nicest men off the field as well. There's an old saying, “Money doesn't make a man, it unmasks a man.”
When Bill Fralic's face mask was removed, we saw the soul of the man.
He was kind, caring, compassionate, and giving of both his time and money. He was as smart as he was talented on a football field too.
I'd like to think that these two kind, caring and compassionate men are now reunited in football heaven.
“Come on Fralic, you're dogging it!”, I can hear Coach Moore scream.
“Bull” would just smile that sheepish, wicked, smile of his from underneath his helmet and then explode off the line of scrimmage and plant his man into the turf.
God would then turn to Coach Fazio and say, “I'm proud of those men.”
Maybe, when I get there someday, they will let me play too. Somebody has to hold the blocking dummy!
There's an old story, a sports writer asks a Coach, "Coach, when will you know if you have a good team?"
The Coach replies, "In about twenty years."
Meaning, men like Coach Joe Moore, not only teach us how to be better football players, if we as players are lucky, they have taught us valuable lessons on how to "Play Life".
Far too many of my friends from that team have left us now.
“Ironhead” was one of the funniest people I ever met. We shared the same weird sense of humor. Our skit at training camp at Edinboro consisted of “Iron” putting me into two large plastic bags, tying the top and I tried to escape. Chuckie Scales our talented widereciver, played the piano for dramatic effect. I failed to escape. The lack of applause to out little act was deafening!
“Buc” just passed too this year. Like “Bull” he was a gentle soul in a big mans body.
Joey Felitsky, well Joe left behind a young family and many, many friends.
Tony Brown played right beside Fralic and also went on to the NFL. Tony at left guard and “Bull” at left tackle. I was tasked daily of having to line up across from them, and in a vein, attempt to try and get to John Congemi or tackle Ironhead. And I'd pray that Bill Wallace wasn't going try and break my ribs with a crack back block from his wideout position.
In our day, we played football. In our day, HITTING was the name of the game!
Tony too was a class act and is missed. “Buc” and “Bull” were right there with Tony as he took his last earthly breaths a few years back.
Todd Becker, the poet once wrote, “The storms of youth, precede brilliant days.” Todd never survived the storms of his youth.
Thank you boys for the memories!
To Us! And those like Us, Damn few left!
How blessed were we to have known these men?
Hail to PITT!
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