Gus Frerotte reflects on hall of fame Alle-Kiski Valley career
In the early days of Gus Frerotte's football career, before he starred at Ford City, broke records at Tulsa or played a decade-and-a-half in the NFL, he broke his foot while playing.
Frerotte, then an eighth-grader, told his father about the injury and got a practical response.
“He said, ‘Tie your shoe tighter, and get back out there,' ” Frerotte recalled earlier this week.
That epitomized the small-town toughness Frerotte grew up with and led to a playing career that culminated in the NFL as one of many quarterbacks to hail from Western Pennsylvania.
Now back home, Frerotte will receive induction into the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame as part of its Class of 2018, along with Chad Hanna, Lewis Lawhorn, Patrick McHenry, Dana Petruska and Chip Young as well as posthumous inductees John Briscoe and Dr. Rudy Mattioli. The induction ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. May 19 at the New Kensington Quality Inn.
“It's a great honor,” Frerotte said. “When you were one of the people that grew up in this area and you know a lot of the people that have (been inducted) before you, to be able to come out of a small town like Ford City and do those things and people recognize that, it's a great honor. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I'm very excited.”
Frerotte played at Ford City for Harry Beckwith — now his father-in-law — before the days of the Internet and social media for skill development and recruiting. He credited his father and coaches for helping him grow as a player.
Despite not getting the opportunity to throw much in Ford City's wing-T offense, Frerotte was noticed at a Joe Butler Metro Index Football Camp — “They had a turf field, which I never saw before. Everything was grass back then. It was the old type of turf, the AstroTurf,” he said — and ended up signing with Tulsa. He ranks sixth all-time at Tulsa with 5,480 career passing yards, seventh in total offense and ninth in passing touchdowns.
A seventh-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in 1994, Frerotte played for seven franchises in 15 seasons, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 1996. One of four quarterbacks to throw touchdowns for seven franchises — Chris Chandler, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Vinny Testaverde are the others — Frerotte retired in 2008 with 21,291 career passing yards and 114 touchdowns in 147 career games, including 93 starts.
“It was a continual climb of never giving up, always striving to be the starter, to be the best,” Frerotte said. “Sometimes people don't believe in you, and you've got to believe in yourself. You've got to believe you can go make a name for yourself and continue to do that. I just was able to do it for 15 years. Obviously it would have been nice to stay in one spot, but my career took me down a different path. I was able to move around, and I had a great family and a great support system.
“My wife, Ann, has always been behind me and did nothing but encourage me wherever I wanted to go. There were probably a few stops I could have stayed and been satisfied with being a backup, but my journey was always to try to start. Even when I went to a place as a backup, I ended up playing a lot of games. It was an incredible journey. I learned a lot and got to meet a lot of incredible people who knew a lot about football.”
Although known most for football, Frerotte also played for Ford City's 1987 state champion baseball team and also played basketball for the Sabers.
“It was always going out and, no matter what sport you played, trying to be the best at what you did,” he said.
Frerotte is attempting to do that in his post-football career. After spending time as a Central Catholic football assistant, Frerotte works full-time now at Corapolis-based RC21X, named after Roberto Clemente. The company developed a smartphone app, Roberto, that helps measure brain performance, something of great importance to the former football star, who remembers getting knocked out by a blindside hit after a punt during his days at Ford City.
The app measures visual and auditory memory and reaction time, developing a baseline for participants.
“It's so important to me because as a player, as a parent and as a coach, you never get any of those answers,” he said. “Even as a coach, if you think about it, the players want to go back in, the parents want the player to go back in and it's really up to the doctor. Now you can give the parents some real objective data about how their child's brain is doing. Then if they do get injured, they can get back to where they were before they got injured.
“That's really what we're trying to do, is have people understand their brain and give them a proactive tool to brain health.”
Married with three kids — Abigaile, 22, is a first-year veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania, Gunnar, 20, is a sophomore at William and Mary and Gabe, 18, is a freshman at Delaware — Frerotte said the Hall of Fame induction brought back memories of high school and the people who helped him succeed: his father, Beckwith, longtime Ford City baseball coach Don Mains and others.
“I just tried to take that (toughness mentality),” he said. “Never scared of hard work, and you just go out and put the time in and let the cards fall where they may. Obviously we've all been through different things. I think one of the things I'm most proud of is being able to continue my career, play for a long time and be in a small group of people who have been able to play in the NFL for 15 years, especially at quarterback.”