Logan Danielson of Thomas Jefferson wins inaugural Bill Fralic Award

Saturday, December 7, 2019 | 12:38 PM

After a pancake breakfast that paid homage to the man of the hour — the hulking yet gentle man who invented the “pancake block” — the first recipient of the Bill Fralic Memorial Award was announced Saturday morning at Oakmont Country Club.

Thomas Jefferson senior Logan Danielson was selected as the WPIAL’s top lineman for 2019, drawing favor from a committee who chose from six finalists — one from each classification.

The award, named for the late Penn Hills, Pitt and NFL standout who blocked and tackled with the best of them for more than a decade, is expected to become a yearly fixture.

Fralic died of cancer last December at age 56.

Danielson, an offensive guard and defensive tackle, said he began to learn about Fralic after he was nominated for the award.

“It’s amazing to watch old clips of him, he was so dominating,” Danielson said. “I studied up on him. I learned about his personal life today and what a great guy he was. It’s a great honor.”

Danielson (6-foot-1, 265 pounds) helped lead Thomas Jefferson to a 16-0 season. The Jaguars won WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A championships, averaged 235.6 rushing yards and scored 100 touchdowns.

“State championship two days ago, and this today,” Danielson said. “It’s been a great weekend.”

Organizers said the award was based on regular-season play.

The other finalists were: Fintan Brose, Hempfield (Class 6A); Brenden Luffey of Moon (5A); Elijah Mike of Aliquippa (3A); Gerald Comedy of Washington (2A); and Zach Crutchman of Jeannette (A).

Those in the William P. Fralic Foundation wanted the award to follow suit with the Heisman Trophy or Outland Trophy and give the finalists a chance to gather at an elegant ceremony where the winner would be revealed.

Dozens of friends and family of Fralic gathered with committee members for the invite-only ceremony. Fralic’s wife, Susan, helped to present the award.

Bill Fralic, who embodied “big-time” and cast a shadow over teammates and opponents from the time he was a grade-schooler, was a four-time Pro Bowl player and a two-time All-Pro in eight seasons in the NFL.

The event was more of a nod to Fralic’s legendary career and impact on the Penn Hills and Pitt communities. It was not the first time — and won’t be the last — he was memorialized.

Fralic was known for making sizable, behind-the-scenes donations but also for lurking comfortably behind the scenes.

“Bill taught us lessons of integrity and love,” organizer and foundation board of trustees member Dan Miller said. “We in the foundation want to make sure his legacy endures. And we hope the (finalists) here today realize they will now be mentioned alongside Bill Fralic and understand what an honor it is to carry on the mantle.”

Miller was pleased to see what started as a glimmering idea come to life.

“This is what we had in mind,” he said.

Danielson has light college interest, but that could change. He has two Division II offers, from Notre Dame (Ohio) and West Liberty.

“Logan epitomizes what Bill did as a person and in terms of how we worked,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. “It’s great to see him win this. It’s been an incredible week for our program.”

Coaches from every WPIAL football program could submit nominees, and six two-way linemen were selected as finalists.

A seven-man committee that includes people with ties to Fralic and/or Pitt in some way, narrowed the field to a half dozen. The committee comprises: athletic director Greg Meisner and coach Rich Bowen of Hempfield (6A); Fox Chapel coach Tom Loughran and Upper St. Clair coach Mike Junko (5A); Cherpak (4A); South Park coach Marty Rieck (3A); Apollo-Ridge coach John Skiba (2A); and Riverview coach Todd Massack (A).

The Fralic Foundation selected the winner, who had to exemplify several criteria, including leadership qualities, work ethic, character and “desire to win every snap.”

“You try to be a leader every time you step on the field and off the field,” Danielson said. “This represents not only football … doing your best in football and in school, and being a good person every day.”

Andy Urbanic, the former Penn Hills and Pitt coach and longtime director of football operations at Florida State, was the guest speaker.

North Huntingdon speed-artist Cody Sabol crafted a smiling portrait of Fralic, finger-painting frantically while guests ate breakfast.

The emcee was Larry Richert of KDKA and the Pitt Panthers Radio Network.

Richert said of Fralic, “He never forgot where he came from.”

The audience watched several slips of Fralic on a projector, with longtime broadcaster Bill Hillgrove recounting stories of big No. 79.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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