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Freshmen numbers and those who broke them in (Part 1)

August 3rd, 2012 by Justin Potts


[Ed.: This is the first of a three-part series on the uniform numbers the incoming freshmen will wear this season. For the full updated roster, click on the roster page on the right sidebar.]

Jersey numbers are the unique identifiers in team sports, but perhaps in no sport more than college football. We buy the jerseys of our favorite players and wear them proudly on game day, and the numbers of the superstars become symbolic long after the player’s days are done. Throughout the history of sports, players become known for the number they wore. Number two is Jeter, three is Ruth, seven is Elway or Mantle, 21 is Deion, 23 is Jordan, 42 is Jackie, 80 is Rice, 99 is Gretzky, and so on.

At Michigan, a new tradition was born last year to honor the legends who have made their number iconic. Desmond’s 21 was officially given “legend” status, and as we will find out this season, Oosterbaan is 47, Ford is 48, and Kramer is 87. Of course, Woodson’s two will soon be immortalized, as will Harmon’s 98 and surely others.

One of the highlights each fall before the season begins is the release of the numbers each incoming freshman will don. These are the guys we’ve heard so much about throughout the recruiting process and for the first time we can picture them in the jersey they’ll wear on the field. Some may make a name for themselves, some may not, but for four or five years we’ll get used to them in the number given. So let’s take a look at the numbers of each of the freshman and the Michigan greats who have worn them in years past.

#12 – Allen Gant

Ricky Powers wore #12 from 1990-93

Twelve will also be worn by quarterback Devin Gardner this season and was most recently worn by Roy Roundtree. It’s not a number that is widely recognized in Michigan lore, but it was worn by a talented running back from the early 1990s. Ricky Powers donned number 12 from 1990-93. He set the Michigan freshman rushing record which was later broken by Mike Hart and rushed for 1,251 yards in his sophomore season. He shared the backfield with Tyrone Wheatley the next two seasons but currently ranks 14th in all-time rushing yards. He is currently the head coach at Akron Buchtel High School in Akron, Ohio.

Other notables to wear number 12: Elvis Grbac (1988), Scott Dreisbach (1994-98), George Hoey (1966-68), Brandon Williams (1999-2002), Chris Zurbrugg (1983-87)

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#13 – Terry Richardson

Garland Rivers was an All-American in number 13 in 1986

Thirteen will be shared by walk-on quarterback Alex Swieca, but he will probably never see the field. It was most recently worn by safety Carvin Johnson and receiver Greg Mathews. The best known player to wear 13 is Garland Rivers, a defensive back from 1983-86 who started 32 games and recorded six interceptions 172 career tackles. He was a consensus All-American during the 1986 season.

Keith Bostic also wore number 13 from 1979-82. He was first team All-Big Ten in 1982 and currently ranks second in Michigan history in fumble recoveries in a season (4), fourth in career recoveries (6), and 10th in career interceptions (10).

Richardson, a four-star recruit, has a chance to make a make in the number 13 in the coming years if he sticks with it.

Other notables to wear number 13: Larry Stevens (2000-03)

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Grbac ranks in the top 3 in most Michigan QB records

#15 – James Ross

Elvis Grbac wore 15 from 1989-92. All he did was become one of the best Michigan quarterbacks of all time. By the time he graduated, he ranked first in career passing attempts (835), completions (522), passing yards (6,460), and passing touchdowns (71). Those records have since been broken, but he still ranks third in attempts, completions and yards, second in career completion percentage (62.5), and first in efficiency rating (148.1). Though he was drafted in the eighth round of the 1993 NFL Draft, he went on to have a long NFL career, earning a Super Bowl ring and one Pro Bowl selection.

Another successful Wolverine who wore 15 was Steve Breaston. The do-everything receiver ranks fifth all-time in career receptions (156) and first in career punt returns (127), punt return yards (1,599), kick returns (81), kick return yards (1,993), and return touchdowns (5).

Other notables to wear number 15: Scot Loeffler (1993-96), DeWayne Patmon (1997-2000), Bo Rather (1970-72), Frank Culver (1917)

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#19 – Devin Funchess

Remy Hamilton's game-winner vs. ND in 1994 was a huge moment for #19

Number 19 is an odd number historically for a Michigan tight end. According to the Michigan football roster database, no other tight end has worn the number. It has been worn most by kickers and receivers, most notably Mike Gillette and Remy Hamilton. Gillette has the record for most field goals in a game (5), while Hamilton owns the season record (25) as well as the record for most consecutive field goals made (14). Hamilton’s claim to fame is a game-winning 42-yard field goal to beat Notre Dame with two seconds remaining in 1994. It was his fourth field goal of the day and he went on to earn All-America honors that season.

Gillette ranks third in career field goals (57) and is tied with Garrett Rivas for most career 40-yard field goals (13). In 1986, his 34-yard field goal knocked off undefeated Iowa as time expired. He also nailed a 58-yarder against Ohio State in 1988.

Another notable Wolverine to wear number 19 was Robert Brown in 1925. He was the captain of that year’s team, which Fielding Yost called the greatest team he ever coached. He was also named All-American that season.

Other notables to wear number 19: Bob Bergeron (1981-84), Henry Fonde (1945-47), Kelvin Grady (2009-11), Dave Raimey (1960-62), Carl Ward (1964-66)

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#22 – Jarrod Wilson

Ty Law was an All-American in #22

Wilson has some big shoes to fill in the number 22, and it’s a fellow member of the secondary. Ty Law donned 22 from 1992-94 and is widely regarded as one of the best defensive backs Michigan has ever had. His six interceptions in the 1993 season rank seventh all-time and he ranks 14th in career passes broken up (19). He was a first-team All-American and two-time All-Big Ten. He went on to a long and productive NFL career before retiring in 2010. A 23rd overall selection in the 1995 NFL Draft, he won three Super Bowls, was named to the Pro Bowl five times, and was named to the NFL’s all-decade team of the 2000s.

Other notables to wear number 22: Jamar Adams (2004-07), Dennis Brown (1966-68), Ralph Clayton (1977-79), Glenn Doughty (1969-71), Darryl Stonum (2008-11), Gerald White (1983-86)

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Thom Darden was one of two All-Americans to wear #35

#35 – Joe Bolden

Thom Darden wore number 35 from 1969-71 and was a standout defensive back. He was an All-American in 1971 and first-team All-Big Ten in 1970 and ’71. He ranks sixth in career interceptions (11), second in single season interception return yards (163) and career return yards (224). He picked off two passes against Ohio State in 1971, the second of which leading to the infamous tirade by Buckeye head coach Woody Hayes. He went on to play for the Cleveland Browns where he is still the career leader in interceptions (45).

Another standout in number 35 was Don Dufek. The defensive back from 1973-75 was a first-team All-American in ’75 and his five career fumble recoveries rank seventh all-time at Michigan. He also starred in hockey for the Wolverines and was drafted to both the NFL and NHL, but chose football.

Stanley Fay donned 35 from 1931-33. The halfback and quarterback was the leading scorer for the 1932 and 33 national championship teams, as well as captain in ’33.

Other notables to wear number 35: B.J. Askew (1999-2002), Chuck Winters (1992-96)

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Jim Pace was an All-American in #43

#43 – Chris Wormley

Wormley will share number 43 with punter Will Hagerup this season. Hagerup has worn it each of the past two years. Jim Pace wore the number from 1955-57 and was a dominant running back in his time. He was named Big Ten MVP in 1957 after scoring 10 touchdowns (seven rushing, two receiving, and one on a punt return). He rushed for 164 yards, a then-record against Ohio State that season. He was also named All-American and ran track for Michigan, winning the Big Ten 60-yard indoor dash title.

An interesting player who wore number 43 was Ben McRae. He played for the Wolverines from 1959-61 and was drafted by the NFL, but is best known for his performance on the track. He was a six-time Big Ten champion and was part of Michigan’s 2010 Hall of Fame class.

Other notables to wear number 43: Corwin Brown (1988), Clint Copenhaver (1994-98), Carl Diggs (1999-2003), Clint Haslerig (1971-73), Ben McRae (1959-61), Monte Robbins (1983-87), Bryan Wright (2006-09)

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Part 2: #49 Kaleb Ringer, #50 Tom Strobel, #52 Royce Jenkins-Stone, #53 Mario Ojemudia, #56 Ondre Pipkins, #62 Blake Bars, and #67 Kyle Kalis

Part 3: #71 Ben Braden, #78 Erik Magnuson, #82 Amara Darboh, #84 A.J. Williams, #86 Jehu Chesson, #99 Matthew Godin