Former Pitt OL Bill Fralic, the inspiration for the term 'pancake block,' dies at 56

Yahoo Sports
Former Pittsburgh lineman Bill Fralic, left, and NFL Hall of Fame member, Pitt quarterback Dan Marino chat at a news conference in 2015. Fralic finished in the top 10 of the Heisman voting on two occasions. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Former Pittsburgh lineman Bill Fralic, left, and NFL Hall of Fame member, Pitt quarterback Dan Marino chat at a news conference in 2015. Fralic finished in the top 10 of the Heisman voting on two occasions. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Bill Fralic, the man whose dominance inspired the term “pancake block,” died Thursday from cancer. He was 56 years old.

Fralic was a star offensive lineman at Pitt from 1981-84. He was one of the best offensive linemen of his generation and was so good that he received first-place Heisman votes. Fralic got six first-place votes and finished eighth in the voting in 1983. He moved up to sixth in the final tally in ’84 and got another first-place vote that season. That sixth-place finish is even more remarkable when you consider that Pitt finished the season at 3-7-1.

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“Bill Fralic was not only an all-time player at the University of Pittsburgh, but also an all-time human being,” Pitt 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. He leaves a wonderful legacy that goes well beyond football at Pitt, Penn Hills and all of Western Pennsylvania. Our hearts and prayers are with his wife, Susan, and all of his loved ones.”

The Pitt sports information department created “pancake block” after seeing Fralic put so many opposing defenders on their backs. The term has become one of the most common in football; few hardcore football fans don’t know what a pancake block is.

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Fralic was the No. 2 pick in the 1985 NFL draft behind Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith. Fralic played in eight seasons for the Atlanta Falcons and a final season for the Detroit Lions in 1993. He missed just 11 games in those eight seasons.

Pitt retired his No. 79 jersey in 1984 and Fralic was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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