RCW: Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk: Frank Seurer Sr.
When Frank Seurer tells people his life story, it is hard to not think that fate continually connected the kid from Southern California to the Midwest and the University of Kansas.
Seurer, who grew up in Huntington Beach, California, made his first connection to KU when he was just 8 years old, his first year of playing football.
The year was 1970, and Seurer’s first football coach took him to the San Diego Chargers’ training camp just 12 miles down the road from his hometown at the University of California, Irvine campus. While there, a Chargers quarterback was enlisted to teach young Frank the basics – how to hold and throw a football.
That quarterback was none other than Kansas football alum John Hadl, whose name and number 21 now adorn the Ring of Honor above Kivisto Field’s North end zone at Kansas’ Memorial Stadium.
“John became an idol of mine,” Seurer said. “Just for the fact that he took the time to teach me how to throw a football.”
Hadl had an impressive professional football playing career, playing 11 seasons for the Chargers (1962-73) and 16 total, throwing for 33,503 yards and 244 touchdowns. Seurer, who tracked and followed Hadl’s NFL career, had an impressive career of his own in the high school ranks, including being half of an amazing backfield duo for Edison High School in Huntington Beach.
Seurer racked up 2,063 passing yards and 23 touchdowns his senior year, while the other half of the tandem, running back Kerwin Bell, gained a national-record 2,268 rushing yards and scored 26 touchdowns.
By Seurer’s senior year of high school, Hadl had finished his playing career and moved on to the next phase of his life; coaching. The Kansas alum had found a job coaching at his alma mater, and in 1979, Seurer’s final year of high school, Hadl was the offensive coordinator for the Jayhawks and played a major role in recruiting.
“John ended up coming out to recruit me to KU,” Seurer said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that is a very unique, small-world situation.’ I didn’t know much about Kansas. Back then there wasn’t the internet or even cable TV really, so I knew little about it. So, when I took a visit, I fell in love.”
Seurer would have a familiar face join him in Lawrence, as his backfield partner Bell also signed to play football for the Jayhawks.
Both Edison High alums had successful freshman seasons in the Crimson and Blue. Bell rushed for 1,114 yards his rookie season and was named Big Eight Newcomer of the Year, but a knee injury in the third game of his sophomore season slowed his progression and he never could get back to full strength, gaining less than 900 rushing yards in his final three seasons combined.
Seurer’s career took off almost immediately, getting to play 10 games his freshman season and becoming the starting quarterback after five games. He threw for 797 yards five touchdowns in his first year as a Jayhawk, and things only went up from there. He threw for 1,199 yards his sophomore season; 1,625 yards as a junior and 2,789 yards as a senior to total 6,410 yards, which was the most in Kansas football history at the time, and currently ranks No. 2 on the list behind Todd Reesing (2006-09), who amassed 11,194 yards in his four years at KU.
Seurer’s football career at Kansas had plenty of highs, including two wins against powerful Missouri squads, highlighted by a 37-27 victory on Homecoming his senior year, knocking off the 19th-ranked Tigers.
Most Jayhawks would tell you that a Missouri win ranks at the top of their memories, but another game is Seurer’s favorite memory; returning home to Southern California to play the No. 10-ranked USC Trojans in front of a hoard of former coaches, friends and family members his senior year.
Twenty-one-point underdogs heading into USC’s Coliseum, Seurer led the Jayhawks to the upset, completing 26-of 38-passes for 385 yards and a touchdown.
“I had a lot of friends who played for USC,” Seurer said. “We ended up beating them in their coliseum, so that’s one of those great wins I will never forget. (Neither is) Going back home, with all of my high school coaches and a lot of family members in the stands. I had a good friend who played defensive back for them, another that was a tight end and another that was a wide receiver. Of course, there was a lot of jaw-jacking going on the whole summer going into that season, so it kind of made it fun. But getting that win, man, that was probably the most fun I had as a Jayhawk.”
With those great memories to always cherish, it was the hard times endured as a Jayhawk that Seurer says shaped him most into the man he is today.
“There were quite a few roller coaster rides in our playing careers,” Seurer recalled. “Year in and year out, we would have to play Nebraska and Oklahoma, and they were always No. 1 and 2 in the polls. We battled, but we could never get over the hump of beating either of those teams, and most of the time they beat us pretty good. You just know going in that you are going to have to play the best game of your life to even compete with them, let alone have a chance to win.
“Sometimes, you just knew in the third quarter, when you were down 30, those are the times where you learn the most. You can either pack up shop and say, ‘Ok this game is over,’ or you try to persevere and never give up. We had a staff that would not let us give up, so those are life experiences that I will never forget.”
By the time Seurer’s collegiate career ended and his professional career was set to begin, Hadl, Seurer’s mentor and coach, had moved on to coaching in the pro ranks. First, he was an offensive assistant in 1982 for the Los Angeles Rams and then the quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos in 1983. Hadl took a leap of faith in 1984 and took a job as the head coach of the Los Angeles Express, a team in the up-and-coming United States Football League (USFL), a spring football league that challenged the NFL.
Fate kept Seurer and KU connected, as Hadl drafted Seurer in the fifth round with the 95th-overall selection in the 1984 USFL Draft, held January 4-5.
Many players who were selected in the USFL Draft elected to wait for the NFL Draft in May to start their professional careers, but the choice for Seurer was an easy one.
“When I saw that John had gotten the job as the head coach of the L.A. Express and he had drafted me, I didn’t even wait around for the NFL Draft,” Seurer said. “I knew that was where I wanted to go. It gave me a chance to go back home, but more than anything it was a chance to play for John again. It was a lot of fun, we really enjoyed those two years.”
The NFL held a supplemental draft in the summer of 1984, which was for players who would have been eligible for the regular 1984 NFL Draft, but who had already signed a contract with a USFL team. Seurer was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round with the 76th overall pick.
Two years were all the duo had together, as the USFL ended up folding thanks to what many, including Seurer, say was a bad move by a couple of the teams’ owners to try to compete with the NFL directly by moving its season to the fall in 1985. Despite some big names in the USFL, including Doug Flutie, Jim Kelly, Scott Norwood, Herschel Walker, Reggie White and Steve Young (who Seurer served as a backup to for his two seasons with the Express), the league was unable to compete with the NFL.
Once the USFL collapsed, Seurer’s rights belonged to the Seahawks because of the 1984 supplemental draft, so he reported to their training camp planning to make a new home, away from his previous two, Lawrence and Southern California.
Seurer faced an uphill battle when reporting to the Seahawks’ training camp. Due to contractual obligations with the Express, he was forced to report to camp late, and wanting just two quarterbacks on their roster, the Seahawks elected to keep Gale Gilbert and Dave Krieg and released Seurer.
Fate would again step in and bring Seurer back to the Midwest, this time right down the road from his former home on Mount Oread. The Kansas City Chiefs signed Seurer and the quarterback spent two seasons with the team.
Once Seurer’s NFL career ended, he decided to move back to Southern California for a short time and attended the fireman’s academy at Rancho Santiago. There, he and his wife, Amy, welcomed daughter Kylie. Once Seurer completed his training at the fire academy however, it was back to the Midwest. Seurer and his family moved to Olathe, Kansas and he took a job with the Lenexa Fire Department in Lenexa, Kansas, where he still works today.
Although Seurer’s playing days were over by this point in time, his most important role – father – again brought him back to Memorial Stadium on KU’s campus, but this time he would have a different vantage than he had in his playing days.
Seurer’s oldest son, Frankie, played football at Hutchinson Community College for one year, 2013, before transferring to be a Jayhawk, fulfilling what Seurer said was a life-long dream his son had.
“(Frankie) did very well at Hutch his freshman year,” Seurer said. “He’s kind of a hard-headed kid and I love that about him, because he knows what he wants and goes after it. He made it pretty clear that he had no intentions to finish college anywhere else, that KU has always been his dream to go to and play (at).”
Seurer states that years of having Frankie’s birthday parties on the Hill at football games and growing up a Jayhawk fan contributed to the younger Seurer wanting to play for Kansas. Despite not getting a scholarship right away, Frankie worked hard to earn a spot on the Jayhawk squad, something the elder Seurer is extremely proud of.
“He had to walk on his first year at KU but he never gave up, never quit battling and working,” Seurer said. “He really wanted to try to play quarterback and they moved him to safety, so he overcame a lot of obstacles. He fought through and worked hard and was able to earn a scholarship his senior year.”
When asked about what it was like to watch his son share the same type of experience as he did, being a part of Kansas football team, memories flooded Seurer’s mind.
“The first thing that went through my mind when I saw him run into Memorial Stadium for the first time was, ‘My gosh, how fast does time go?'” Seurer said. “I just remember being his youth football coach from kindergarten all the way up to sixth and seventh grade. Finally seeing him get to his ultimate goal to play at KU was such a joy.”
Seurer and Frankie, while already sharing a father/son bond and Kansas football alum connection, were joined together one more way in May, when Frankie received his K Ring at the K Club Senior Ceremony.
“For him to culminate his whole KU experience with (receiving) the K Ring was just a really proud moment for me,” Seurer said. “I know what he went through and how hard he worked for it. Knowing it didn’t quite go the way he planned, he learned to fight through adversity and he made it happen. I am really proud of him and that was really gratifying to see.”
Seurer, a proud father of three, recognizes the great times he had at Kansas as a student, making friends with not only his teammates, but other members of the student body. Now he hopes his youngest son will find a place to get the full college experience.
“The one thing that I think about, looking back after all these years, is just how close some of my friends and I still are from back in those days,” Seurer said. “My younger son is going to college right now, he just finished at Butler (Community College in El Dorado, Kansas) and he is trying to get into the fire service, but I want him to experience the full college experience. You learn so much and there is so much to offer through that, I don’t want him to feel like he has to rush into a career right now.”
Seurer is retiring from the Lenexa Fire Department in September and hopes he can become involved, one way or another, with the Kansas Athletics Department.
“KU is a very tight-knit school,” Seurer said. “It’s a very impressionable time in your life. But for me, moving away from home, 1,700 miles away as a 17-18 year old, was a little intimidating. I made bonds very quickly, not only with teammates, but I got to know a lot of the students in general, and I still talk with them today.
“It was an experience I would never trade for anything. There is so much that you can grab (onto) and obtain from the college experience as a whole, and I’ll never forget those times.”
Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk.