BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - Reporters have shuffled into Al Fracassa's office for years, interviewing the Brother Rice head coach one successful season after another.
Fracassa can't remember the number of interviews he's done, and he can't recall how long he's had his second-floor office, either.
Yet in his 45th and final season at Brother Rice, Fracassa can rattle off a tale about each and every player that wore the school's trademark orange helmet. Just ask him to show you around his office. He'll prove it.
"I have a lot of stories I could tell you," he says.
Doubling as a museum, his office is filled with footballs, trophies, game tapes, and most noticeably, photos.
A lot of photos.
"You can see with all these pictures I have in here, I don't know where to put them anymore. But everything I get, I like. I want to watch it and put it up for a while."
If walls could talk, these would talk for years
Coaching for over five decades tends to create relationships with a prominent person or two in the football world. More than a couple memories with famous friends litter his walls.
"This is a picture of (our) field inauguration, with Bo Schembechler and Steve Mariucci. It's a good one. Bo died just two months after," he recalls.
Below that is a shot of he and current Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio.
"I got my Italian friend there, Dantonio," he says as he points with a smile.
Resting above his desk is a Green Bay Packers Super Bowl XLV hat. TJ Lang, an offensive lineman with the team, and a former Warrior standout, hand-delivered it to Fracassa.
"I said, 'This (hat) is worth a lot of money.' He said, 'That's okay, coach. I can afford it.'"
The hat is more than a keepsake. It's a story. And Fracassa is always in the mood to tell stories.
"Every time they play, I gotta watch," he says of Lang's Packers. "I don't watch the quarterback. I watch him, because if he screws up, I'm gonna tell him. I'm his high school coach!"
Old faces in new places, with the same tradition
Fracassa doesn't ask his former players to send photos. It's simply become customary for them to take a picture in their new jersey, military outfit, or with their family, and send them back home.
And that's not all.
"They write me a little note. 'Dear Coach, Thanks for everything,' or 'It was good to be at Brother Rice with you.' Some very nice, kind remarks."
As he looks around, he points out a former walk-on at Michigan, who's now a nuclear physicist. A new set of four photos from Warriors at Central Michigan rests behind his chair. Oh, and at one time, there were six Warriors playing for Michigan State at one time. There's a 14x20 enlargement of that group.
As he slowly turns around the room, his head could spin, but it doesn't. He knows where each photo resides in the array of thank you's.
"There are a lot of memories. A lot of memories. When no one's around, I look at these pictures quite often," Fracassa explains.
They make for great decoration, and whenever an old player is back in town, the longtime head coach's office is the first place they visit.
"They love it. They love seeing it all," he says.
He will remain at the school after his retirement from football, and the office will stay intact. The pictures will be there, and so will Fracassa.
Expect the stories to continue, too.
Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli
Throughout the 2013 high school football season, Brad will be documenting the final days of Al Fracassa on the Brother Rice sideline. Visit WXYZ.com for news, stories, and videos from the season.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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