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T.J. Lang, a 2005 Brother Rice grad, is the latest in a long line of talented players to have suited up under longtime coach Al Fracassa. (AP photo)

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BIRMINGHAM — Approaching his 400th career victory as a high school football coach, Birmingham Brother Rice’s Al Fracassa is a master groomer of prep talent on the gridiron.

In his over five decades pacing the sidelines, first at Royal Oak Shrine and then for the Warriors, Fracassa has sent 16 former players to the NFL, most by any head coach in state history.

“I’ve had quite a few pros in my time, that’s for sure,” he said. “There’s no way I could have had this type of success without them. In order to be a great coach, you need to have great players playing for you. I owe a lot to those guys.”

Fracassa coached for nine seasons with Shrine before taking over the Brother Rice program in 1969. While at Shrine, he coached four players — Jim Seymour, Paul Seymour, Billy Simpson and Mike Haggerty — that went on to careers in the NFL. Seymour, a three-time All-American with Notre Dame in college before playing for the Chicago Bears, was his first future pro.

Entering his 43rd year coaching the Warriors in 2011, he has sent 12 Brother Rice players to the NFL, the most recent being T.J. Lang (Class of 2005), currently with the defending Super Bowl champion, Green Bay Packers.

Brother Rice’s undefeated 1983 state championship team sported four future pros, in Mike Lodish, Bob Kula, Mel Farr, Jr. and Mike Farr. Lodish, a scrappy defensive lineman, holds the NFL record for most appearances in the Super Bowl, playing in six of them and winning two with the Denver Broncos in the late 1990s.

“Mike Lodish was one tough competitor, I’ll tell you that,” Fracassa said. “What he was able to accomplish in the NFL is pretty remarkable.”

Mike Farr was a starting wide receiver on the 1991 Detroit Lions team that went 12-4 and won a division title prior to losing in the NFC Championship Game.

One of Fracassa’s current assistant coaches, Brad Cochran, graduated from Brother Rice in 1981 and played defensive back with the L.A. Raiders. Putting his experience in the league to good work, Cochran, who played collegiately at Michigan, coaches the Warriors’ secondary, one of the better units in the state this fall.

Some of the other notable NFL players that prepped under Fracassas were Brian Brennan, Pete Mitchell, Bob Kula and Matt Baker. Brennan played quarterback at Brother Rice before becoming an all-conference split end in college at Boston College and a reliable possession receiver in the pros with the Cleveland Browns.

Mitchell, a sure-handed tight end also played at Boston College before having a lengthy and successful career in the NFL with a number of teams, including the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Kula was a starter on Michigan State’s 1988 Rose Bowl-winning team prior to playing with the Seattle Seahawks. Baker quarterbacked the Warriors to a state title in 2000. Starting under center in the ACC at North Carolina, Baker had a short pro career as a backup with the Buffalo Bills.

During Fracassa’s tenure with the Warriors, he has won 14 Catholic League championships and seven state titles, while sending a staggering 143 players on to Division I college programs.

Last Updated: 9/29/2011 1:51:47 AM EST


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