ACC Legends Week: Virginia's Frank Quayle
Nov. 15, 2012
Frank Quayle (Virginia, 1966-68), one of the top running backs in Virginia history, set more than 20 ACC offensive records in his three seasons in Charlottesville including the single-season rushing mark of 1,213 yards in 1968. As a senior, he was named the ACC Football Player of the Year and then added the McKevlin Award as the ACC's top male athlete for his performance in both football and men's lacrosse. His impressive 6.93 yards per-carry average in 1968 is still the third-best per-carry mark by an ACC back with over 1,000 or more yards in a single season. Quayle led the nation in 1966 in all-purpose yardage, and he still holds the ACC all-purpose career per-game record (166.0). Quayle ranks 16th on the ACC's career rushing yards-per-game list, 10th in ACC career all-purpose yardage (4,981) and is seventh on the Virginia career rushing list with 2,695 yards. A two-time, first-team All-ACC honoree (1967-68), he also earned Honorable Mention All-America honors in lacrosse (1967). He was selected in the 5th round of the 1969 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos and played one season in the NFL. He returned to Charlottesville in 1973 and began an ultra-successful career in real estate. His jersey number--24--is one of just six numbers retired at Virginia. He recently retired after 29 years as the radio football analyst on the Virginia Sports Network. Originally a native of Garden City, N.Y., he currently lives in Charlottesville, Va.
You did more than set football records at Virginia. You returned to Charlottesville, built a successful business career and became one of the voices of Cavalier football on the radio. I believe it is fair to say the University of Virginia has remained a focal point of your life?
Yes. When I drove away after I graduated, I didn't think that I would be coming back. But I found myself coming back during the offseason. My first year out of school I played football (in the NFL) in the fall, and in the spring I was trying to get on Wall Street. I had a position lined up at Merrill Lynch, but they had a training program that would have gone on until the 15th of July, and the Broncos' camp started about the 11th of July, and neither one was flexible. I've often thought that if it had not been for that four-day overlap I'd have been riding the Long Island Railroad to work every day. Steve Sebo, the athletic director at Virginia, called and said he heard I wasn't doing anything, would I like to come back to Charlottesville? I went back, recognized Charlottesville was more than just a university town, and for the last 40 years it's been home. It's a pretty special place to raise a family and to call home.
With football and lacrosse, you were a standout two-sport athlete, which is something that is kind of rare now. How much did lacrosse influence your decision to head south and attend Virginia?
It certainly played a role. Gene Corrigan, who went on to become the ACC commissioner and do a lot of other wonderful things, was the Virginia lacrosse coach at the time. He had a wonderful personality, and clearly his recruiting played a meaningful role in my choosing the University of Virginia.
The football program had struggled in the `50s and early `60s, and then just before you got to Virginia it showed some improvement. Did you sense that things were coming together and you could be part of the group that turned the corner?
Just to show how naïve I was - I grew up on Long Island, and college sports were almost non-existent there. Everything was about the Giants, the professional sports. When I came to Charlottesville, I had no idea that they'd had the longest losing streak in the country earlier in the decade. What I heard was a lot of enthusiasm over what had happened the summer before my first year at UVa. Virginia had been picked 20th in the country by Sports Illustrated, and Bobby Davis was a preseason All-American at quarterback. So that's what I thought I was going into, and I was stunned when I learned they'd had 10, 11, 12 losing seasons previous to my coming there.
Virginia almost hit the .500 mark your sophomore year, then the next season you got to 5-5 by winning your last three. How much of that do you think carried over to your senior season, when you finally broke through with the seven-win year (1968)?
It sounds silly today, when you think in terms of 10 or 11 wins being a special season, but the hurdle to break that streak of non-winning seasons seemed so high. My junior year against South Carolina, we had a loss that was just crushing to us. We were ahead 17-0 at the half, but we'd had a touchdown called back so in our minds it should have been 24-0.
What happened in the second half?
Paul Dietzel was their head coach, and he wasn't on the sidelines in the first half. He had been operated on and missed the first half. Then the second half starts, and he comes out on the field in a golf cart and everyone in the stands is going crazy. They come back and win 24-23. That stung as much as any loss I can remember. And then we got upset by VMI the next week. We were able to bounce back and finish the season on a positive note, but those were bitter disappointments that year.
Are there other games like that - or maybe ones that went in your favor - that you remember from your time as a college player?
My sophomore year, we played Georgia Tech when they were fifth in the country. They were 7-0 or 8-0. We were 2-5. We led most of the game. At one point we were ahead by a touchdown and were at the 3-yard line going into the end zone. That would have put us ahead by 14 points, but we fumbled the ball. They tied it up, but late in the fourth quarter, we scored to go up 13-7. As we lined up for the extra point, they jumped offsides. We begged our coach to let us go for two. We called an off-tackle play, and I saw I was not going to make it, so as I was in the air, I turned and I threw the ball back to Bobby Davis. He had a receiver wide open who catches the ball. But they said the whistle had blown as I was trying to go over the top.
Did you hear the whistle?
I'm not arguing the call. It probably was the right call. But then they take the ball, go down and very quickly score to go ahead 14-13.We still had some time, and every practice I had at Virginia, we always finished with a two-minute drill. It was one where we didn't huddle up, which was unusual back then. We had these four plays that we were going to run, and this was the only time that we got to use it. We got the ball back with one minute and 42 seconds left, and we ran those four plays. They worked wonderfully, and we got the ball down to the 11-yard line with four seconds left in the game. There is a picture I will remember forever that was taken there at Grant Field from the Georgia Tech side. You see the scoreboard up along the stadium showing the score 14-13, four seconds left. You see us lining up to kick, you see all of our players on the sidelines holding hands. And then we missed the field goal ... but that was the most memorable game for me.
The games you describe - it sounds like so much was a matter of learning what it took to win.
You're not kidding. When you have adversity, you don't think, `Here we go again.' You've got confidence that you can overcome it. But it was very, very challenging to overcome that streak of losing seasons.
After you played professional football and made Charlottesville your permanent home, you built a very successful career in real estate. What took you into that field?
When I came to Charlottesville and worked with the athletic department, one of my thoughts was that I would meet a lot of alumni, and I was trying to come up with a career. Roy Wheeler, a gentleman who was probably in his late 60s or early 70s at the time, had a business that he had started in the 1920s. He gave me an opportunity to work with him, and things fell into place. Sadly, he died during the first three or four years after my being there. A couple of partners and I had the opportunity to buy the company, and it has continued to do well and be a wonderful business in Charlottesville.
You had the opportunity to also remain close to the football program as the color commentator for the radio network. Was it especially exciting to be a part of that during Coach (George) Welsh's tenure, with the places he took that program while he was there?
Yes. In the early 70s I was offered the chance to do a test for an announcing job on the radio network, and I wasn't selected. Looking back, it was a good thing, because I have often said there is no way I could have survived the 1970s with Sonny Randall and Coach (Dick) Bestwick and 2-9 seasons. So my timing could not have been better.
How did the chance come around again in the early `80s?
(Former Virginia play-by-play announcer) Mac McDonald and I were playing in a charity golf tournament, and he asked if I had ever done any announcing. He gave me the opportunity, and in my second season they went to the first bowl game ever, the Peach Bowl - clearly the highlight for Virginia football in the last 50 years. I've always felt like Coach Welsh hasn't gotten nearly the recognition he deserved for turning the program around. Virginia had 14 straight years where it won at least seven games. There were only four schools in the nation that achieved that over that time period, and for Virginia to be in that group was one of the great achievements in college football.
You mentioned the game with Georgia Tech when you were a player. As a broadcaster, was there a memorable game that stood out as well?
Clearly the Florida State game in 1995. I always thought, "What an embarrassment to the conference that no one has been able to beat this team (since they joined the conference in 1992)." It was just an extraordinarily exciting game.
Did you see anything like that coming?
Well, many people aren't aware of how Virginia's season had played out before that. The first game of the year, we played Michigan at the Big House and lost on the last play of the game when they scored a touchdown as time expired. We played Texas on the road, and they kicked a long field goal to win on the game's final play. I read then that only four teams on record had lost two games as time expired in the same season. So then we get to the Florida State game, and Virginia is leading 33-28 as Florida State is in shotgun formation at our 6-yard line with just a few seconds on the clock, and I am thinking, `Don't let Virginia go into infamy as the only team to lose three times in one season on the last play of the game.'
And with the defensive stop at the goal-line that didn't happen. This season marked your first time not being in the radio booth after 29 years. Have you missed it at all after having some great moments like you described in the FSU game?
I certainly have. I loved doing it. I'd often thought to myself that if the adrenaline wasn't flowing during the national anthem, that's a good signal to step down. It was still flowing most games the past seven or eight years, but there were times that it wasn't. I was unsure what it was going to be like not doing the games anymore, but I just felt strongly the time had come. You don't want to get pulled off the stage. It's best to get off on your own before they pull you off.