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Frank Burns

Sport: Football

Born: March 16, 1928

Died: July 14, 2012

Town: Roselle Park

Frank Robert Burns was born March 16, 1928. He grew up in Roselle Park, where he captained the Roselle Park High football and basketball teams to state championships. Frank stood a shade under six feet. He shared backfield duties with Herm Hering, who had a cannon arm equal to Frank's. Frank also starred at catcher for the Panthers baseball squad. An all-state football player as a senior, he was recruited by Rutgers and ran the T-formation offense for Harry Rockafeller as a freshman in 1945 and legendary coach Harvey Harman from 1946 to 1948. Frank also played catcher on the Rutgers baseball team and was a .300 hitter with good power.

With “Flinging Frank” throwing long passes, the Queensmen— as they were known back then—won the Middle Three (Rutgers, Lehigh and Lafayette) Conference title each year he quarterbacked the team. As a senior in 1948, Frank engineered Rutgers’ first road victory over Princeton in 79 years, dating back to when football was in its infancy. The big play against the Tigers was a TD pass to fleet-footed Dick Cramer that traveled more than 60 yards in the air. Later that season, Frank led Rutgers to a 40–0 shutout of NYU at Yankee Stadium. He earned Honorable Mention as an All-American in 1948 and went 27–7 in his career, with 35 touchdown passes.

Frank was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles were coming off a first-place finish and had already selected Frank Tripucka in the first round, so his odds of making the club were slim. Frank did not help his chances by delaying signing a contract in order to remain eligible to play his senior year on the baseball team. Eventually, Frank decided his future was in coaching, not playing, and he accepted a position at Rutgers as a physical education instructor and assistant to Harman on the football team. Frank, who had also played linebacker for Rutgers, suited up one last time on September 1, 1949 for the College All-Stars against the New York Giants. He was named MVP of the game after making 17 tackles and helping the collegians to a 28–13 upset of the pros. It felt good to go out on top.

After two seasons at Rutgers, Frank was hired by Johns Hopkins. He coached the football team there in 1951 and 1952 before returning to New Jersey to coach at Chatham High School. In 1961, Rutgers coach John Bateman hired Frank as an assistant. That year the school enjoyed its first undefeated season. In 1973, Frank succeeded Bateman as head coach. The Scarlet Knights had 8 consecutive winning seasons, including an 11–0 campaign in 1976. The 11th win was a wild Thanksgiving night victory over arch-rival Colgate. The players carried Frank off the field after the final whistle blew.

In 1978, Rutgers went to its first bowl game, the Garden State Bowl, but lost to Arizona State. The team struggled in the early 1980s and Frank was fired after the 1983 season. His record was 78–43–1. Frank was inducted into the Rutgers Athletic Hall of Fame and also into the school’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni. He retired to Bucks County, Pennsylvania and passed away at the age of 84.

 

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