Born in Missoula, Montana, Friesz graduated from northern Idaho's Coeur d'Alene High School in 1985 and was recruited to the Vandal program by none-other-than Dennis Erickson, who is currently back for a second term as Idaho's head coach and a likely inductee into this Hall at some point in the future. In 1986, under the leadership of Erickson's successor Keith Gilbertson, John backed up NFL-bound Scott Linehan, then in 1987 as a redshirt sophomore led Idaho into an era of exceptional success on the gridiron, including three consecutive Conference Championships between 1987 and 1989. During that span Idaho never lost more than 3 games in a season, finished every season with a 7-1 conference mark or better (in 1989 they went 8-0 in Conference action), and in 1988 completed an 11-2 season and a run deep into the 1-AA playoffs.
Friesz practices as Seattle's starting quarterback.
In both 1987 and 1988, Friesz was voted a 2nd Team AP All-American. In 1989 he was named a consensus 1st Team All-American (by AP, Kodak, TSN, and FBG), the Coaches Choice 1-AA Player of the year, and FBG Offensive Player of the Year.
In 1989 Friesz was also the first quarterback to be selected as the Walter Payton Player of the Year Award recipient. The Walter Payton Award was established in 1987, and is presented annually to the most outstanding college football player at the Division I-AA level (the winner is chosen by a nationwide panel of media and college sports information directors from the division). That season Friesz threw for 4,041 yards and 31 touchdowns as he led Idaho to the Big Sky Championship and a berth in the I-AA playoffs. Among his exceptional accomplishments during that senior season, Friesz threw for an incredible 367.4 yards per game, went over the 300-yard mark in 10 straight games (still a UI record that may never be broken), and in one impressive stretch during that season completed 173 consecutive passes without an interception.
In the 1990 NFL Draft, Friesz was the tenth quarterback selected, taken in the sixth round (138th overall) by the San Diego Chargers. He played with four different teams in his NFL career: the Chargers (1990-1993), Washington Redskins (1994), Seattle Seahawks (1995-1998), and New England Patriots (1999-2000).
Friesz leads the Seahawks into battle against the Raiders.