Competitor coached 20 years

Ohio native 'loved the game and he loved kids.'

Dennis Fryzel had three careers spanning 45 years. But to those who knew him, he was, simply, Coach.

Mr. Fryzel was a college and professional football coach for 20 years, working with the likes of Bill Parcells, Nick Saban and Earle Bruce.

He coached at Columbia University, Williams College, Air Force Academy, Syracuse University, University of Tampa and Ohio State University. He even did a stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"He loved the game and he loved kids," said Gayle Wood Fryzel, his wife of 44 years. "He loved knocking heads on Saturdays with the other team, trying to outsmart them."

Vin Hoover played for Coach at the University of Tampa 1973-74. Initially the defensive coordinator, Mr. Fryzel became head coach at the age of 30.

Mr. Hoover said Coach was intense. He paced back and forth on the field. He yelled. He butted heads with players. And if he had to show an athlete how to tackle, he'd demonstrate —- without gear.

That intensity was evident when Tampa played its opening home game in 1973.

Mr. Hoover said he was fetching something from the locker room, where he found the rookie coach by himself, throwing up.

"If you're an intense person, the stomach's going to churn," Mr. Hoover said. "You'd see that from a player perspective, not a coaching perspective. That told me something about him right then."

Dennis "Coach" Fryzel, 67, of Duluth died at his home on Monday of renal cancer.

The funeral is 10:30 a.m. today at St. Brigid Catholic Church in Alpharetta. Bill Head Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Born in 1942 in Cleveland, Coach was the captain and star receiver of his football team at Garfield Heights High School. After graduating from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, he returned to his high school alma mater for two years. From there, he went on to a half-dozen universities.

As defensive coordinator at Syracuse in the late 1970s, Coach hired a young Nick Saban for $14,500. Later, they coached together at Ohio State before they were fired in 1981. In 1998, when Michigan State played Ohio State, Coach didn't pull for his beloved Buckeyes. Instead, he rooted for Mr. Saban, who was a first-time head coach for the Spartans.

"After Michigan State won, he ran out on the field and embraced Nick with this famous kiss on the mouth," Mrs. Fryzel said. "He was so thrilled."

The two were close friends. Mr. Saban, who is now coach at the University of Alabama, said his final goodbye to Coach during a visit Sunday, Mrs. Fryzel said.

After almost 20 years in football, Coach left to pursue a career in commercial construction sales. He later became president of a telecommunications company. But he didn't leave his coaching days behind him for good.

"When he ran his own company, [employees] called him 'Coach' as well," Mrs. Fryzel said.

Mr. Hoover said Coach was a football genius, someone who never took his eye off the ball —- in work and in life.

"Denny Fryzel today is still coaching football Upstairs," he said. "Once you're a coach, you're never out of football."

Additional survivors include two daughters, Karen Chapple of Alpharetta and Suzie Carey of Gainesville; and two brothers, David Fryzel of Odessa, Fla., and Dale Fryzel of Lakeland, Fla.