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Fracassa's Final Season: A Coach and His Quarterbacks
9:31 AM, Nov 21, 2013
(WXYZ) - This season has been full of reminders for Al Fracassa.
There have been old championship team reunions, one former player after another popping their head into school, and even rival schools' recognition of a 55-year career.
Yet, with his team playing late into November for the third consecutive season, the going away party has also given us a reminder of Fracassa's fountain of youth.
At 81 years old, the coach with the white hair has no problem motivating and relating to youthful teenagers.
"I can tell he pushes me a little bit more than the other players on the team. He's always been hard on me. He says that he's gonna be hard on me, too," current quarterback Alex Malzone said.
Malzone is the latest in a long list of signal callers Fracassa has mentored. The junior is already garnering attention from Division I schools, including Big Ten programs. That's not rare at Brother Rice.
"I love the position. It's a leadership type of position, and that's why it's been a success," Fracassa explained.
The reason for the attention has to do with Fracassa's own background.
"When I went to Michigan State, I was known as the scouting team quarterback," he recalled.
Fracassa was a backup on the Spartans 1952 title team. It was during college when he began to understand then the importance of a leader under center.
"I'm really honored to have played for Al Fracassa. He's just a great motivator and a great person," former Brother Rice quarterback Dave Yarema shared.
Yarema followed in his coach's footsteps, graduating as a three-year starter at Brother Rice, and becoming MSU's starter at the ripe old age of 17.
The list hardly ends there. Jon English played at Tulane after guiding the 1979 title run. Allen Szydlowski led the 1983 team's championship, then played at Western Michigan. Matt Baker won the 2000 state championship, and took his talent on to North Carolina and the NFL. Most recently, after the 2005 state championship, Mike Cappetto went to Duke.
"I think what makes him a great coach, and very close with quarterbacks is because he's seen both sides of it," Cappetto said.
There were more who played college football, and even a greater amount who chose other sports. Doug Pickens ran the Warriors offense from 2000-02, then played baseball at Michigan. Andy Lentz quarterbacked the 2005 state title team as a sophomore, and played baseball at Georgetown.
"They respect me for what I know about quarterbacks. I really believe that," Fracassa said.
The measure with Fracassa has never been amount of colleges, or the big names he's coached. To him, it's all about the relationships. With the position the focus of every set of eyes, he reminds his quarterbacks all the time of what's important.
"He'd whip you into shape and tell you, 'You're not a hot shot,'" Yarema laughed.
Fracassa still jokes with his group of quarterbacks at practice, telling them he can throw the ball better and they have to keep working, despite being 81 years old.
"You know, I'm a little heavy now. They probably thought I was a guard," he smiled.
Malzone said he's talked with English, and Baker, and knows what goes with being a Brother Rice quarterback.
"All the history. It's a great school."
Cappetto's younger brother is a sophomore QB, and was called up after his junior varsity season to join the playoff roster. Luke works with Malzone at practice, and listens to the same coach who has guided dozens of signal callers to success.
"Over the years, being a Brother Rice quarterback has a sense of prestige to it, a sense of accomplishment. The reason why is, he's made it that way," older brother Mike said.
Fracassa's has experienced a lot of reminders this season, but he's also given us a reason to remember one of his greatest strengths.
rad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter
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.