Former Atlanta Falcons first-round draft pick and four-time Pro Bowl guard Bill Fralic died Thursday at the age of 56 following a bout with cancer.
The University of Pittsburgh, where Fralic was a three-time All-American offensive lineman, released the news of his passing. He was the first offensive lineman to twice finish in the top 10 of the Heisman Trophy balloting, placing sixth in 1984 and eighth in 1983.
"I can clearly remember as a kid watching him at Pitt with my dad saying, 'Watch this guy play offensive line,'" Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Friday. "The physicality and finish that he played with, that's one of my memories about him even before he became an NFL player."
Fralic went on to become the second overall pick of the Falcons in 1985, selected behind Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith of the Buffalo Bills. Fralic played eight seasons in Atlanta, starting 115 games at right guard. He finished his career with 16 starts at right guard for the Detroit Lions in 1993. Fralic was a two-time All-Pro and named to the 1980s all-decade team.
In a statement, Falcons owner Arthur Blank called Fralic a "cornerstone" of the team during his eight seasons in Atlanta.
"He was a beloved Falcon, and he will always be grateful for the impact he made here in Atlanta," Blank said.
The late Joe Moore, Fralic's position coach at Pitt, once said this about his star offensive lineman: "Bill Fralic is the best. If you can find somebody better, bring him to me. I've been privileged to coach some good ones here, but none better than Bill Fralic. Those kind only pass through once."
Twenty-nine years ago, Bill Fralic convinced former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw that the league needed random steroid testing throughout a 12-month calendar year, and the men helped push through the new policy.
Fralic was the initial whistle-blower in the battle against steroids and other illegal substances, and he used much stronger language, and in front of a much more significant audience than a cable television show provides.
In May 1989, Fralic testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee that three out of four linemen, linebackers and tight ends used anabolic steroids and suggested that most coaches ignored the warning signs.
Fralic, who after his 40-minute appearance was deemed "refreshing and believable" by then-committee chairman Sen. Joe Biden, employed the term "rampant" at least three times in his testimony.
Information from Len Pasquarelli and ESPN's Adam Schefter was used in this report.