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Bill Fralic, Pro Bowl lineman and three-time all-American in football, dies at 56

Bill Fralic in 1985.
Bill Fralic in 1985. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)
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Bill Fralic, a burly, bruising and athletic offensive lineman who starred for the Atlanta Falcons and was a three-time all-American at Pittsburgh, died Dec. 13 at his home in suburban Atlanta. He was 56.

He had cancer, the University of Pittsburgh said in a statement.

Mr. 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. Pittsburgh retired his No. 79 at halftime of his final home game in 1984.

Mr. Fralic was part of the inaugural class of Pitt’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017, inducted alongside his former teammate, Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.

Atlanta selected Mr. Fralic with the second overall pick in the 1985 draft. He spent nine seasons in the NFL, including eight as one of the few bright spots during a difficult period for the Falcons. He was selected for the Pro Bowl four times and earned all-pro honors in 1986 and 1987.

The NFL named him to its All-Decade Team for the 1980s even though Atlanta struggled during much of his career. The Falcons went 27-67-1 during Mr. Fralic’s first six seasons before finally reaching the playoffs in 1991.

Current Atlanta owner Arthur Blank called Fralic a “cornerstone” of the franchise. He retired in 1993, after one season with the Detroit Lions.

Mr. Fralic attempted to serve as a whistleblower against what he considered rampant steroid use in the NFL.

In 1989, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “steroid use in football represents a vicious cycle” and estimated that 75 percent of offensive and defensive linemen and tight ends used the performance-enhancing drug. Former vice president Joe Biden, then chairman of the committee, lauded Mr. Fralic’s candor.

“Our football fraternity lost a great one,” tweeted former NFL defensive lineman Tony Casillas, an ex-teammate of Mr. Fralic.

William P. Fralic Jr. was born Oct. 31, 1962, in Pittsburgh and grew up in Penn Hills, Pa. As recently as the week before he died, Mr. Fralic paid the hotel bill for the Penn Hills football team when it traveled to Hershey, Pa., for the Class 5A state title game, which the team won.

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