Top 50 Falcons: No. 9, Bill Fralic

Bill Fralic, Atlanta Falcons

Falcons offensive lineman Bill Fralic went to four straight Pro Bowls from 1986 to ’89. (Mike Powell /Allsport)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 9 is offensive guard Bill Fralic.

Years played for Falcons: Taken second overall in the 1985 NFL Draft out of the University of Pittsburgh, Bill Fralic became a stalwart and unquestioned leader of the Falcons from 1985 to 1992 before finishing his career in Detroit after one season. From ’86 to ’89, Fralic made four consecutive Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro selection in ’86 and ’87. He made one playoff appearance with the Falcons in 1991.

Jersey No.: 79

His impact on the team: When the 1985 draft came, the Falcons desperately wanted Fralic and traded up two spots with Minnesota to get him. Though he was hampered by injuries, he built a reputation as a great run blocker and despite the Falcons struggling during those years, he played on some very good offensive lines with Jeff Van Note, Jamie Dukes, Chris Hinton, John Scully and Mike Kenn. Fralic helped pave the way for running back Gerald Riggs and protected quarterbacks Chris Miller and current Falcons color analyst Dave Archer. As good as he was on the field, he was also very outspoken off it and in 1989 testified in a U.S. Senate hearing about the rampant use of steroids in the NFL, pushing for stricter testing. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, said Fralic’s testimony was “refreshing and believable.”

Bill Fralic, Atlanta Falcons

Ben Utt (from left), Mike Kenn, and Bill Fralic train on bicycles during practice. In addition to Utt and Kenn, Fralic played on lines with Jeff Van Note, Jamie Dukes, Chris Hinton and John Scully. (AJC)

His impact on the University of Pittsburgh: For the Panthers, Fralic finished twice in the top 10 of the Heisman Trophy balloting (eighth in 1983 and sixth in ’84), the first ever for an offensive lineman. His blocking style began to be known as the “Pancake,” which the Pitt sports information staff used as a stat for every time Fralic knocked an opposing defensive lineman on his back. Fralic meant so much to the school that his No. 79 jersey was retired at his last home game in college and he also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

On the 1985 draft: “We didn’t go to New York and I woke that morning and the Falcons called me and told me that they had drafted me second. I remember getting on a plane to Atlanta, doing a press conference and I think I came back the same day.” (AJC)

On his years with the Falcons: “It was what it was and to say anything else I would be kidding myself. I wish we won more football games but I was comfortable that I showed up every day ready to play. I wish I could have been a little healthier.” (AJC)

On the difference in linemen today: “The game has changed. It is more quarterback driven. I am not sure how that shakes down to the line. They do seem a little bigger these days. We didn’t see many 300-pounders back then.” (AJC)

On concussions: “I am all for them trying to help the former players get the help they need. I remember having one, maybe two during my career. But I would go at someone with my forehead every play and that is a lot of trauma.” (AJC)

On his concern that head trauma may still affect him: “I don’t worry about it. I am aware that it could either happen or will happen. But I still like the game better the way it was played when I was in it. If I had kids I would let them play. The rewards outweigh everything else.” (AJC)

Where he is now: Fralic, 53, lives in Roswell with his wife, Susan, and his two English Bulldogs, Daisy and Charlie. Last year, Fralic celebrated the 25th anniversary of his property and causality insurance company that deals primarily with trucking companies across the county. He also is very involved with fund-raising for rescuing English Bulldogs.

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
48: Jonathan Babineaux
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler
42: Tim Mazzetti
41: Buddy Curry
40: Scott Case
39: Jeff Merrow
38: Elbert Shelley
37: Matt Bryant
36: Alge Crumpler
35: Michael Turner
34: Ray Buchanan
33: Chris Hinton
32: Terance Mathis
31: Devin Hester
30: Don Smith
29: Greg Brezina
28: Chris Miller
27: John James
26: Bob Whitfield
25: Rolland Lawrence
24: Alfred Jenkins
23: Billy Johnson
22: Chris Chandler
21: Morten Andersen
20: John Abraham
19: George Kunz
18: Jamal Anderson
17: Keith Brooking
16: R.C. Thielemann
15: Tony Gonzalez
14: Andre Rison
13: Julio Jones
12: Roddy White
11: Steve Bartkowski
10: Michael Vick
9: Bill Fralic

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