Quarterback Gus Frerotte was a standout during his time at the University of Tulsa. Drafted in the seventh round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, he went on to play 15 seasons in the NFL for seven different teams. His finest season was the 1996 campaign, one in which he threw for nearly 3,500 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl. In 2008, Frerotte tied the NFL record for the longest pass from scrimmage when he connected with Bernard Berrian for a 99-yard touchdown against the Chicago Bears.
The Kittanning, Pennsylvania native spent a number of years coaching high school football. Now 49, Frerotte is currently the President of Business Development for RC21x, an advanced web-based system for measuring and monitoring key neurocognitive and neuromotor brain performance capabilities. He also currently hosts the podcast Huddle Up with Gus.
I talked with him about the enormous amount of autographed he was required to sign as a rookie, his admiration of vintage baseball cards and how he became the guy to “punt in a pinch.”
TR– Your rookie card appeared in 1994 in the Bowman product. What was the first card you saw yourself on?
GF-I did a signing where I had to sign a bunch of cards. I had to sign about 5,000 cards. That was pretty exhausting, signing all of those cards. I was in my Tulsa uniform. That was the first time I really saw myself on a card. From that point on, my dad basically collected all of my cards.
TR–It was Superior Rookies. You said your dad collected for you. Was he a collector in general or did he collect because his son was in the NFL?
GF-My dad was a collector in general. He always collected cards. He loved collecting sets. I always tried to get him to collect the single rookies. I told him they would be more valuable than the sets. He would rather collect the set. That was his preferred way of collecting.
When I started playing in the NFL he had binders and binders of all my cards. He passed about 16 years ago and my mom gave me his whole collection. There we so many cards! I didn’t realize I had that many cards. He was proud. Now it’s interesting, with COVID-19 happening, all my kids are home. We have been able to go through a bunch of boxes and binders. They have gotten interested in it. I have given them all of those cards. They were pretty excited. They love football. They have been collecting themselves now and taken a big interest in it. It’s been a lot of fun doing that.
TR– On the back of your Bowman Rookie Card it states you could ‘punt in a pinch’. How did the punting career come to be?
GF-My high school coach, Harry Beckwith taught me how to punt. He also became my father in law because I married his daughter Annie. Harry played college football and was a punter and a quarterback. When he came to Ford City he taught me how to punt. I did for a year in college. I wasn’t great at it but I was good enough to get us through if we needed it.
TR–Taking a trip down memory lane, in 1996 Donruss did a set called Studio which were just short of glamour shots. Do you remember seeing those cards?
GF– Oh, yeah. There are a lot of those in my binders. Those were kind of funny, those portrait cards. You get those, which are comical, where your hair is combed and you are looking good but then you get the ones where they used the worst picture. You are in the worst, most unathletic pose you could have on a football field and they put that on a card. Why would you take that picture and put it on a card? I don’t know. It’s funny. They just took the worst pictures. I know you snapped a bunch of them, you think you could have picked the best one instead of the worst one.
TR–You had the number 12 throughout your career at nearly every stop. From college through your pro career in Washington, Denver, Detroit, Cincinnati and down the line. How did you always manage to get number 12 and what is the significance of that number for you?
GF– For me, growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1970’s, I was always a Steelers fan. Terry Bradshaw was always my favorite player. That was the reasoning for me always having number 12. Anywhere I went, sometimes it was available and sometimes it wasn’t. When I went to St. Louis, Ryan Fitzpatrick had it. I was just texting him the other day. I asked him how much I paid him to get that number 12. He sent back a big goose egg. We were laughing about that. Sometimes you pay for them, sometimes you can just get them. I have been lucky to get the number in most places. Miami was the only place because number 12 was retired there. I couldn’t get 13 in Miami, obviously. I went one down and got number 11.
TR–Another one of your card backs said that you were helping on the physical fitness side for the Pittsburgh Pirates and that you walked right over and had a semi tryout for the Steelers. Is that true?
GF– In college, I was in the Health, Phys Ed and Recreation. I went to the combine and did things like that. As most kids that age, I was trying to figure out what they heck I wanted to do. Being in Tulsa, I wanted to come home to Pittsburgh. The Pirates had an internship and I applied for it. I interned with the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a blessing for me. I loved it. I worked in the weight room. I worked with the front office people. I trained them and did all of their workouts.
In Pittsburgh back in that day it was old Three Rivers Stadium where both the Pirates and Steelers were in the same building. I went over and they took me out for a workout after my senior year in the spring. I worked out in their little practice facility. Many other teams came in and I worked out for those teams individually because I didn’t have a pro day like many guys do. I didn’t have a pro day in Tulsa, I had mine at Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium. When I was working there I got to know a lot of people. The gentleman who was the photographer for the Pirates for a long time took me back into this room and he wanted to give me something. He gave me all these old black and white pictures of the Pirates, from the Waner Brothers to Honus Wagner to Roberto Clemente. I gave them to my dad. He loved building frames for pictures. We had so many, we would take them to card shows and my dad would barter the pictures for cards. He loved that. He loved anything he could barter.
TR–With your dad being such a big collector did that get passed down to you as a kid?
GF-I have always been a baseball card collector. When I was little I messed around with it with my brothers. Now I wish I could go back and have a lot of those cards I remember opening up in those packs. Through the years I have bought some people’s collections. Mainly it has been baseball cards. I am trying to build my collection up. I am working on the 1960’s in baseball right now. From the 1970’s to the 1990’s I have most sets from every card company.
TR–Do you have a favorite card?
GF– My single favorite card is my 1955 Topps Roberto Clemente rookie card. I was friends with these people and we went to dinner. The gentleman was an attorney from Tennessee. They were good friends. I was playing for the Redskins at the time. We went to dinner and the guy pulls out this envelope. He said he wanted me to have it. It’s a Roberto Clemente rookie card. I said that I couldn’t take it, no matter how much I wanted to.
He was in his sixties. His mother passed away and he went back home. His room looked just like it did the day he left. He checked his closet and there was his old shoebox with all of his old cards. The Roberto Clemente rookie was in there and he gave it to me. It was amazing. I have been collecting ever since. I have had a lot of old cards. I bought a gentleman’s collection from D.C. He knew I collected and he needed money. He brought them over. It was cards from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I was sold. There were a lot of Clementes in there.
A funny story, Roberto Clemente, Jr. came over to our house. We got to know him. We were eating a spaghetti dinner. My wife cooked one of his favorite meals. We had a great night. He was telling us the story about how he lost most of his dad’s baseball cards in a flood they had at his house. So, I said hold on. I went and got about twenty of mine and gave them to him. His dad was such a powerful person and an incredible player. If anybody should have them it should be his son.
TR–What card is at the top of the want list right now?
GF-I am working on the 1960 and 1961 Topps sets. One of the cards I always wanted but I haven’t bought yet is a 1968 Topps Nolan Ryan rookie card. Someday, maybe, I will get a Mickey Mantle rookie card. I like the 1952 Topps better to be honest. Either one would be fine with me. I have a 1956 Topps Mickey Mantle, which is pretty nice. I bought a 1909 T206 Cy Young. It’s not in great shape. It’s probably a 3 or 4 but I had to have it. You can’t find those cards. It’s just amazing. Baseball history is what I collect.