Pine-Richland’s Miguel Jackson named 2020 Bill Fralic Memorial Award winner

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Saturday, December 5, 2020 | 12:20 PM


Pine-Richland teammates gave Miguel Jackson the nickname, “Smoke,” when he was a sophomore because they often caught him saying, “They don’t want no smoke.”

It became his catchphrase, a warning of sorts that meant opponents would do better not to mess with him on the football field.

They used to say the same thing about Bill Fralic.

“And the rest is history,” Jackson said.

Jackson now holds company with the legendary Fralic, considered by many to be the best lineman to play in the WPIAL.

Jackson, who helped lead Pine-Richland to WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A championships and a perfect 11-0 record this season, won the second Bill Fralic Memorial Award on Saturday morning during a virtual ceremony.

The award recognizes the WPIAL’s top two-way lineman who displays characteristics of the late, great Fralic, who dominated at Penn Hills, Pitt and in the NFL before he succumbed to cancer in 2018 at age 56.

Known for his aggressive style and innate ability to flatten those posing a threat to his quarterback, Fralic, a college All-American and All-Pro in the NFL, became a legend in Western Pennsylvania and inspired a committee of friends and supporters to carry on his name with the award.

“Mr. Fralic was a remarkable football player and a pioneer for the game,” said Jackson, who grew up in Penn Hills. “This is a huge honor, but without the team, I couldn’t win this award.”

The Fralic award added to Jackson’s abundant senior season.

An offensive guard and defensive end, Jackson had 54 tackles and 12.5 sacks this season. He stonewalled opponents and produced 19.5 tackles for loss.

He set the school record for career sacks (36).

The Rams’ high-powered offense even let him have some fun. He rushed for a touchdown and threw a touchdown pass against North Hills.

“I feel like winning the state championship with all my friends and teammates was the highest honor this year,” Jackson said. “We worked so hard for this, and it came true.”

He paused.

“But throwing the TD pass to Luke Miller is up there,” Jackson said with a laugh.

Pine-Richland averaged 48.6 points and nearly 435 yards per game.

Jackson was selected among five other finalists, one from each classification.

The others were Aaron Gunn of Union (Class A), Mitch Miles of Laurel (2A), Eli Podgorski of South Park (3A), Colin Lyons of McKeesport (4A) and Dorien Ford of Baldwin (6A).

Ford will play at Pitt, while Gunn is headed to Louisville.

Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz called Jackson “the best all-around lineman I have ever coached.”

“On defense, if you don’t account for where Miguel is,” Kasperowicz said, “he’ll make you pay. “He has a motor unlike any other and has a desire to win every snap, and goes hard through the echo of the whistle.”

Jackson, a two-time WPIAL champion, recently decommitted from Liberty and said he is planning to announce a commitment to another program “in the next couple of days.”

He said he is considering Charlotte, James Madison and Central Michigan.

Logan Danielson of Thomas Jefferson won the Fralic award last season.

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 annual ceremony where the winner would be revealed.

An in-person ceremony, with a pancake breakfast — Fralic invented the “pancake block” — was held last year at Oakmont Country Club. But organizers decided to have a virtual, Zoom presentation this season in light of the covid-19 pandemic, which has seen spiking cases in Allegheny County and surrounding areas.

Fralic’s wife, Susan, announced the winner from Atlanta and said Jackson will “forever be associated” with her husband.

Guest speakers Saturday included Andy Urbanic, the former Penn Hills and Pitt coach and longtime director of football operations at Florida State; and Greg Meisner, who also was a lineman at Pitt and played against Fralic in the NFL.

North Huntingdon speed-artist Cody Sabol provided another painting of Fralic, which was unveiled during the ceremony.

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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