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John Friesz Former Viking!

Photo Courtesy of File Photo Spokesman Review
Friesz receives Hall nod

Friesz receives Hall nod
Ex-Vandals QB to go into college shrine

John Friesz played for Seattle and three other NFL teams. (File The Spokesman-Review )

Classy class
Friesz is joined in the class by:

Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Kevin Dent (Jackson State) and Ronnie Mallett (Central Arkansas); and

coaches Dick Farley (Williams College), John Gagliardi (Carroll College) and Vernon "Skip" McCain (Maryland-Eastern Shore).

Jim Meehan
Staff writer
May 10, 2006

John Friesz had plans for Aug. 11-12, but he's happy to break them. After all, it's not every day one is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Friesz is one of seven in the Hall of Fame's 2006 Divisional Class, which honors players and coaches from NCAA divisions I-AA, II and III, and NAIA. The ceremonies will take place in August in South Bend, Ind.

"My neighbor is a member at Black Rock (golf course) and that's the weekend of the member-guest (tournament). It's just incredible and I was lucky enough to play in it last year," said Friesz, the former Coeur d'Alene High and University of Idaho standout quarterback. "But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so obviously I'll be there."

Friesz, a three-time Big Sky Conference Player of the Year and the 1989 Walter Payton Award winner, symbolic of I-AA's player of the year, threw for 10,697 yards and 77 touchdowns as a Vandal from 1986-89. Friesz still holds numerous UI single-game, season and career records.

"I had no idea I was up for nomination," Friesz said. "All of a sudden a FedEx envelope showed up. It's just a tremendous honor."

Typical of Friesz's understated style, he didn't open the envelope from the National Football Foundation until later that night. By then his wife was asleep and he didn't want to wake her up. He phoned his parents the next morning, but he still hasn't told too many others about the honor.


Friesz was recruited to Idaho by Dennis Erickson, who returned to UI as head coach in February. Friesz's breakthrough came the summer before his senior season at CdA High when he attended Vandal football camp.

"The huge break I got was that my parents, even though it wasn't easy for them to do, put me in Vandal camp and that's where Coach Erickson saw some potential in me," said Friesz, who played for four teams during a 10-year NFL career. "He was willing to take a chance on me."

Erickson left Idaho after Friesz's redshirt freshman season, but the Vandals continued to thrive under Keith Gilbertson (1986-88) and John L. Smith, who coached Friesz in 1989. Idaho won three consecutive Big Sky titles with Friesz at quarterback.

Friesz credited his development to the teachings of Erickson, Gilbertson and former UI offensive coordinators Bill Diedrick and Bob Petrino.

"Bill Diedrick was the first coach that really fine-tuned my mechanics and got me thinking the way a quarterback has to think," Friesz said. "Not just during the play, but how you carry yourself 24 hours a day.

"College football wouldn't have been what it was without Coach Gilbertson. He was a great mind and leader and made football by far the most fun for me."

Friesz stays in touch with several former Vandals teammates, including Steve Unger, Steve Nolan and Mike Cox, another Coeur d'Alene High product.

"The overall success of the team was what I'm most proud about," Friesz said. "It was just an incredible time."

Friesz lives in Hayden with his wife, Julie, and three sons. He helps coach his boys' Little League baseball teams. He's involved in several non-profit organizations and is helping put together golf tournaments to raise money for spinal cord research and the Kootenai County Police and Fire Memorial Foundation.

Friesz's No. 17 jersey was retired at Coeur d'Alene High in 1991. Friesz and Erickson were inducted into the Idaho Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.