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Departing Birmingham Brother Rice head football coach Al Fracassa has left a huge imprint on the state's coaching ranks. (Oakland Press file photo)

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BURNSTEIN COLUMN: Fracassa all that you could have ever wanted in a coach, local sports icon

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True heroes don’t come along very often.

These days more than ever.

Retiring Birmingham Brother Rice head football coach, Al Fracassa, is just that though, a true hero to the core of his being.

To say his absence will be felt around the state is a vast understatement.

To say his legacy is the size of Ford Field, Comerica Park and Joe Louis Arena all rolled into one is not far off.

To say he will be missed can’t express the titanic impact he has had on his school, his players and the entire Motor City community.

I was given an energizing jolt of humanity every single time I had the pleasure of interacting with the state’s “Gridiron Godfather”, so I can only imagine the colossal effect he must have had on his players and the coaches who worked underneath him.

The accolades and accomplishments are tremendous – 54 years of service on the sidelines, the MHSAA’s all-time leader in wins, 10 state crowns (nine tourney titles) and more future NFL players mentored than any other coach in state history by a wide margin.

The type of person he was, the ideals and characteristics he stood for, were even better.

He was the definition of class, and his players - literally every single one of them I encountered in my six years covering him and his team - were a reflection of that in every way, on and off the field.

He produced outstanding young men, as well as outstanding football players.

I honestly believe an argument can be made that Fracassa is one of the Top 5 football coaches in the history of the state of Michigan, high school, college or pro - maybe even Top 3.

If they were constructing a Mount Rushmore of the Mitten’s most elite sideline generals ever, he should be on it, right there with Bo, Fielding Yost (Michigan football "founding father"), Duffy Daugherty (his college coach at MSU) and Buddy Parker (the coach that took the Lions to repeat NFL championships in 1952 and 1953 respectively).

In his final years on the job, he refused to simply be a figure head and run his program from afar. Fracassa was just as engaged with his players and the preparation aspect of the game as ever.

His teams, as they had always been, were deeply inspired by his presence and his meaningful words.

That translated into him being able to leave his post at the top of the heap, three straight state titles and a perfect season – his first in 30 years – to close it all out last weekend at Ford Field with his squad's resounding 38-21 mauling of Muskegon in the Division 2 state finals.

The perfect ending.

The perfect legacy.

The perfect coach.

Farewell Albert, it's been grand.

Last Updated: 12/7/2013 6:33:07 PM EST


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