McKeesport’s Courtney Dunn wins Fralic Award as WPIAL’s top lineman

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Saturday, December 2, 2023 | 3:04 PM


Matt Miller said Courtney Dunn wanted to be a running back several years ago when the senior lineman was coming up in the McKeesport football program.

“His mom told him, ‘You’re too slow to run the ball. Get back to your position,’ ” said Miller, McKeesport’s coach. “We don’t want him carrying the ball for us unless it’s a scoop-and-score.”

Dunn is glad he remained a blocker and tackler. If he hadn’t, he would not have been eligible for the Bill Fralic Memorial Award, which he scooped up Saturday to become the fifth recipient of the WPIAL’s top senior interior lineman of the year.

Dunn was the Class 4A finalist.

“All the work I put in … I had a feeling I could win this,” said Dunn, who beat out finalists from the other five classifications. “I knew if I worked hard, blessings would come.”

The announcement of the winner came Saturday during a pancake breakfast and ceremony at Longue Vue Club in Verona.

Fralic is the inventor of the pancake block.

“I didn’t know how popular (Fralic) was and how much he did for the game,” Dunn said. “I learned so much about him today. This means a lot to be part of history.”

Dunn had 51 solo tackles and five sacks this season. McKeesport averaged 335 yards per game, 272 rushing.

He had 27 pancake blocks.

The Fralic award process involves coaches nominating players during the season. Those players are then narrowed to six finalists, one in each classification, before the committee selects the winner.

While McKeesport had a number of solid linemen, Dunn was Miller’s nomination.

A standout offensive lineman and defensive end, Dunn has Division I FCS offers to play at Duquesne and St. Francis (Pa.).

Pitt and Kent State have shown interest, he said.

“Straight up, he’s as good as anyone,” Miller said. “He is a two-year starter and captain. He epitomizes what the sport is all about.”

Dunn (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) has blocked for three 1,000-yard rushers. This season, he helped McKeesport (11-2) to a runner-up finish in the WPIAL.

The other finalists were Cameron Chmura of North Allegheny (Class 6A), Ryan Cory of Pine-Richland (5A), Rico Steele of West Miffin (3A), Mike Crist of Steel Valley (2A) and Cam Branch of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (A).

“Those are some great players,” Dunn said.

The breakfast again was a celebration of Fralic’s life as a player, family member and friend.

Alumni from Pitt and Penn Hills filled a dining room to watch Fralic’s highlights and hear stories about the legendary lineman, who played at Penn Hills and Pitt before a nine-year career in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions.

Many believe the two-time Heisman Trophy nominee deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Fralic Foundation trustee Dan Miller pointed out it has been 42 years since Fralic was the No. 1 high school recruit in the nation.

Fralic, the No. 2 pick in the 1985 NFL Draft, died of cancer in 2018 at 56.

“He was king of football and life,” said Andy Urbanic, a longtime Penn Hills coach who was surprised Saturday with the Bill Fralic Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award. “No one was too old, too young, too rich or poor. He treated everyone with dignity.

“I am so fortunate to have coached so many great players, including Bill.”

Urbanic won four WPIAL titles and was 110-30-2 at Penn Hills.

The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center is the permanent home to the Fralic Award, complete with an exhibit of memorabilia and a list of the award’s winners.

Dunn will have his name there with past winners Logan Danielson of Thomas Jefferson (2019), Miguel Jackson of Pine-Richland (2020), Sean FitzSimmons of Central Valley (2021) and Joe Enick of Penn-Trafford (2022).

Chmura, a Marshall commit, could not attend the ceremony because North Allegheny played Harrisburg on Saturday afternoon in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals in Altoona.

Cory is a Wisconsin commit who helped lead Pine-Richland (9-3) to a runner-up finish in the WPIAL.

Steele (6-4, 300), the son of West Mifflin coach Rod Steele, committed to Bowling Green.

Crist is going to Coastal Carolina.

The guest speaker Saturday was Tom Flynn, another former Penn Hills and Pitt star who was the 1984 Pro Football Weekly NFC Rookie of the Year. He led the NFL that season with nine interceptions and went on to become a Super Bowl champion in 1987 with the New York Giants.

Flynn played quarterback at Penn Hills.

“Everything about Bill was big,” Flynn said. “That was a special man. It is a special place to be in the same sentence with Bill Fralic.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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