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Archive for the ‘Tales from Yesteryear’ Category

We played like we should have all season – with emotion

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013


There isn’t much hope for Saturday’s game against Ohio State, unless of course it’s hoping for a miracle. Michigan is near the bottom of the Big Ten Legends Division, having only the poor Wildcats of Northwestern beneath them. Going into Saturday the Maize and Blue are looking pretty downtrodden and the gridiron cry for this week seems to be ‘Let the opposition be merciful and our potential be miraculously fulfilled.’

Will it happen? Well, it’s not impossible.

Two decades ago, Michigan played the Bucks and came away with an improbable win. Going in they were 6-4 – not exactly an impressive or fear-inducing number for the fifth-ranked Buckeyes. But when the game clock expired on that cold November day the score read 28-0 and team with the goose egg was Ohio State. The Wolverines had pulled off a stunner.

Can the 2013 team pull off such a victory? They’re 7-4 and the Buckeyes are third in the nation. So at the first glance the circumstances are similar to those in ’93.

Tyrone Wheatley rushed for 105 yards in the first half of the 1993 game (AP photo)

The coach of our rival all those years ago? John Cooper, the man who is remembered not for his worthy credentials on the field, but for his inability to beat ‘That Team Up North’.

Urban Meyer isn’t likely to suffer such infamy, though time will tell. For all we know, this could be the beginning of the reverse of fortune for Michigan in this time-honored rivalry. But if it is, going by the results of the early ’90s game, the Wolverines are going to have to put forth an excellent defensive game.

Four interceptions helped to lift the home team over their highly touted opponent that day, as well as an impressive 100-yard game by Tyrone Wheatley in only two quarters. It also helped that Ohio State used two different quarterbacks, and the one that Cooper stuck with saw his passes in the hands of Michigan defenders about as often as his teammates’.

Will Braxton Miller, who has thrown for 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions, make the same poor decisions and give up the football? It could happen. But what’s more likely is that the problems Michigan has faced all year will not be washed away by the fervent and inspired play of their defense.

Devin Gardner’s touchdown to interception ratio is 17:11. The Wolverines are 100th in the nation in rushing. The ’93 Buckeyes? Their rushing game was nearly as ineffective and led to situations where they were forced to pass. Being transparent and passing poorly, Ohio State suffered.

This year however, the Buckeyes are third in the nation in rushing yards, and it’s unlikely that they will make a mistake like accidentally downing the ball on a punt near their own red zone. But stranger things have happened in football than an underdog victory.

I think then-head coach Gary Moeller said it best at the time: “It was probably our lack of success during the season that helped in our victory. We played like we should have all season – with emotion.”

If Michigan can do that, maybe, just maybe they’ll be play an outstanding game and redeem the season.

Old 98: Heisman winner, war hero, and soon to be Michigan Legend

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013


Tom Harmon will be honored during this week’s game against Notre Dame by being inducted into the ranks of Michigan Football Legends. Harmon, the winner of the 1940 Heisman trophy, was the program’s first athlete take home the award, and is in the minds of many a fan the best that ever played at Michigan. After all, it would take the Wolverines half a century to add another name to the much venerated tally of Heisman trophy winners – a time span that unfortunately outlasted its first honoree, who passed away at the age of 70 in 1990. Yet the legend of Harmon’s life continues to live on through memories of his illustrious career, wartime heroics, and days spent as what was one of his lifelong dreams, a sports broadcaster.

Old 98 is widely regarded the greatest to ever wear the maize and blue

It’s easy now to lose sight of the dramatic victories and woes of the gridiron that flashed across screens in pre-World War II America. Easy because of the numerous playbacks of Michigan’s more recent victories, and it’s long list of prolific and daunting players alike. But the tremendous efforts amassed by players from what seems now a faraway era should not be forgotten, or their stories fail to be passed excitedly from fan to fan in the long football months. Fantastic dashes, hurtles, and spins are as inspiring now as they were then. What was won was won, no matter how long ago, and as such deserves to be dusted off by active memories alive in the present.

Harmon was a boy from Gary, Indiana, and a promising athlete in high school, earning fourteen varsity letters and being selected twice as the All-State quarterback. He was also captain of the basketball team and a standout in track. Needless to say he adapted quickly to being an integral part of the Michigan offense at the tailback position. In his three seasons as a Wolverine he rushed for over 2,100 yards, passed for just over 1,300 yards, all to build an impressive 237 points scored.

But he was not only a proficient offensive talent. Tom kicked extra points, punted, and played defense. In true Michigan fashion he endeared himself to the Wolverine faithful by saving his best and last collegiate performance for the Buckeyes. He rushed for three scores, passed for two more, and kicked four extra points to help in the 40-0 shutout of Ohio State. And as if that wasn’t extraordinary enough the home crowd in Columbus rose to give him a standing ovation at the end of the game.

After graduating he passed on being the first pick of the 1941 draft, deciding to play for the New York Americans instead of the Chicago Bears. However, the decision would be short-lived, as he enlisted as an Army Air Corps pilot in November of that year.

Harmon earned a Purple Heart and Silver Star in the US Army

As a pilot he twice had to abandon and parachute out of his plane. The first time after hitting a tropical storm near South America, he was lost for four days before being found in a clearing. The second happened when he was shot down by Japanese fire. He landed in occupied China and, after feigning death, was picked up and helped by Chinese guerrilla fighters. He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for his service.

When the war ended he went to Los Angeles to play for the Rams, but after two lackluster years in which he was plagued by the effects of wartime injuries, he used the skills he had acquired at Michigan – his degree in English and speech. For the rest of his career he would broadcast in television and radio for the likes of ABC, Kelloggs, KTLA in Los Angeles, and the Olympics until his passing in 1990. He is succeeded by his three children, Kristin, Kelly, and Mark. The latter followed in his father’s footsteps as a quarterback at UCLA and later as primetime television actor.

Harmon’s life was not one whose brilliance ended on the athletic field. From his days as a high school standout through his time as a sports announcer he excelled in every arena of life. He was a Michigan Man in every sense, and one would be hard pressed to find someone better deserving of the honor to be named as a Michigan Football Legend.

He will be honored in a pregame ceremony this Saturday and a current Michigan player will be given the jersey number to wear with the “Michigan Football Legend” patch on the left chest.

It was that a coach didn’t have confidence in his defense

Thursday, December 27th, 2012


Michigan and South Carolina don’t share a field very often, though both programs have been around since the late nineteenth century. Likely it was distance, along with different conference play, and the Big Ten’s love of playing Pac-10 schools that makes this only the third meeting between the Gamecocks and the Wolverines.

The only other two meetings were played in the eighties, when Bo was still the head coach at Michigan and Jim Carlen (1980) and Joe Morrison (’85) were calling the shots at S.C. The second matchup was more or less a blowout by the Wolverines, but the inaugural meeting was one to remember, though it’s likely that the Maize and Blue offer their remembrances with a rather imposing garnish of sour grapes.

1980: South Carolina 17 – Michigan 14

Anthony Carter caught two touchdowns against South Carolina in 1980

Michigan went into the third game of the 1980 season a solid favorite against its newly acquainted southern opponent. And as expected, the Wolverines got off to a good start putting up a pair of touchdowns thanks to the sure-handed Anthony Carter. Michigan held the Gamecocks to a field goal before both teams headed for the tunnel to prepare for the second half, which was went the tides turned.

On its first possession, Michigan marched down the field to just inside the ten. Then came the blunder, a Stan Edwards fumble into the endzone recovered by South Carolina. The Gamecocks countered with a swing of their own, only they landed the blow with the help of soon to be Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers – the first in Gamecock history. Michigan 14 – South Carolina 10.

On Michigan’s next drive, Schembechler made a decision to attempt the fourth down conversion on his own 29-yard line. They were stopped short. Carolina ball. Touchdown. Game over.

Bo took the blame for the loss, saying “It was that a coach didn’t have confidence in his defense…we should have punted.”

The Wolverines would go on to win the Big Ten Championship, garner a Rose Bowl victory against Washington, and end up No. 4 in the final rankings with a 10-2 record. While Bo took the blame for not trusting his defense, the defense did not allow a single touchdown the final 22 quarters of the season. But that filed fourth down attempt that led to the Gamecocks’ winnings score and one of Michigan’s seven losses in 28 games against SEC opponents likely still has Bo turning in his grave.

1985: Michigan 34 – South Carolina 3

The second faceoff between the two teams washed some of the bitterness from the mouths of Michigan fans. Jamie Morris was the 15th-ranked Wolverines’ prolific rusher, and continued his dominance against South Carolina during his sophomore year. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh had a tremendous day also, helping the Wolverines put up 34 points. However, it was also the defense which caused two fumbles, and intercepted twice (once on the final play) to solidify the win for Michigan in Columbia.

This year will mark the first time the teams have meet in nearly thirty years, and the only time they have faced in a bowl game. Since the series is tied there is motivation on the part of both teams to take a one win advantage, but it’s more likely that both schools want show that since two of their losses came against opponents ranked No. 1 and 2 (granted the two teams the Wolverines played are now to face off in the national championship, but S.C.’s losses to LSU and Florida aren’t exactly embarrassing) the quality of their team is not to be underestimated. This should be one to mirror the 1980 struggle, not the lopsided victory five years later.

They were passionate enemies to be sure

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012


Woody was the titan from the Buckeye state, and Bo a protégé working his way up the ranks, but now the two are synonymous with one of the most touted rivalries in all of football, and one that is as zealous as it is old. It started in the 1800s in a bitter dispute over the state boundary then known as the Toledo Strip. Both states claimed the territory for themselves, each sending troops to defend it. And while no blood was shed over the matter the clash remained a sore point in the history of the states that neither particularly cared to dissolve into goodwill. Ohio was conceded the portion of land, and Michigan was compensated with a much larger, but also much more remote piece of property now known as the Upper Peninsula.

Despite being bitter rivals, Bo and Woody held a tremendous amount of respect for one another

But it would be sixty years before the two states would herald the two teams that would draw such accented hatred for one another. In 1897, the Wolverines and the Buckeyes faced off for the first time, and after World War I would continue to play each and every year until the saga was built on more than a half century of fervent clashes. No one could have guessed, however, that the matchup would achieve the status of an ongoing war, and that it would have its very own Benedict Arnold.

Bo Schembechler had worked under Woody Hayes for several years at Ohio State when his alma mater, Miami University of Ohio, asked him to be the head coach of its football program. Woody, not wanting to see him go, told him that he would assume the role under the helm after he had retired, a date which he thought would roll around in a handful of years. But Bo didn’t want to miss the opportunity, and packed his bags and headed south to what would become a stepping stone to his greatest achievement, and a role that would cement his status in football lore.

In 1969 an Ohio man was crowned the sovereign head of Michigan football to the sound of a thousand freshly stacked papers headlined, “Bo Who?”.  A rather lackluster start for what would embed itself into Wolverine and Buckeye history alike in a few short months.

Coming into the 1969 game Michigan was still licking its wounds from the year before, as it is naturally hard to console any embarrassment caused to the ego without being given a shot to redeem the thing that precipitated it. In the case of Bo’s first team it was the memory of the outrageously unsympathetic two point conversion attempt made by Hayes when his Buckeyes were up 50-14 very late in the fourth quarter. It didn’t matter that the extra points weren’t converted, and it surely didn’t help that in the aftermath Woody is said to have replied upon being asked about his decision that he went for two “because I couldn’t go for three.” The attempt was one aimed at humiliation, and it served its purpose. Thus it was with the smell of fall lingering in the air, and a season of reminders of what had been a spit in the face to a down and out opponent, that the Wolverines had come to face their shot at revenge. The enemy however, had only gotten stronger.

Bo bested his mentor in their first meeting in 1969, setting off the Ten Year War

Arriving at the gates of the Big House, the Buckeyes were an impressive force having won 22 straight games and averaging more than 500 yards of offense. If Michigan was to beat the Scarlet and Gray they were going to have to play as they had in the four games leading up to the meeting in which they scored an average of 45 points. Needless to say they were underdogs. Yet they were also the best kind, those with immense potential and an outlet to prove it.

There were over a hundred thousand fans packed into the stadium that day to see student face off against teacher, and they were treated to a show. Ohio State ran the kickoff back close to the mid-field line and continued to march down to just outside the ten before coming upon a fourth and two. They went for it, the refs marked it, and it was short. Michigan’s ball, but they did nothing.

The Buckeyes put up the first points of the game but missed the point after. Michigan matched the score and put the ball through the uprights. Not to be outdone, Ohio State scored again, and again cannot convert the two-point conversion. The Wolverines were not to be discouraged and put up a touchdown of their own, retaking the lead. On their next possession they ran the punt back to Ohio State’s doorstep and scored two plays later. Then, on their last possession before halftime, they attempted a field goal. It was good. 24-12 Michigan at the half.

And so it stays, the crowd counting down to the victory of the century and the dawning of what would become one of the greatest decades in football for the two programs. It was the era of the Big 2, and the Little 8. The series went back and forth until 1974 when Ohio State won twice in a row before losing in three straight matchups to the Wolverines. The pupil/mentor rivalry couldn’t last forever though and Woody’s angry foul at the 1978 season ending bowl game against Clemson, when he hit an opposing player on the chin after an interception looked to seal the win for the Tigers, also sealed his fate. He resigned as head coach shortly after, but Bo continued to lead the Wolverines for another eleven years until he retired.

They were passionate enemies to be sure, but they also held a tremendous amount of respect for each other. Not feeling well, Hayes insisted on delivering an introduction speech for Schembechler at a banquet in Dayton. He did, and passed away the next day. Bo, not to be outdone in regards to the man he so revered and the rivalry he loved so much, passed away the day before the first-ranked Buckeyes hosted the second-ranked Wolverines in 2006.

While Ohio State triumphed that night it was evident by the signs hoisted in the air by sworn enemies that both sides grieved the loss of a coach who had cared so deeply, and had been so instrumental in making the rivalry what it was. Because the truth of the matter is that as much as Michigan hates Ohio State, and as much as the feeling is reciprocated, both teams want to face the other at its best. They want the game not to mean something. They want it to mean everything.

What stands now is the opportunity for the rivalry to be reinstated after two decades of lopsided streaks, the Cooper era, and then the late Carr-Rodriguez debacle. Can Hoke and Meyer bring The Game to the height of its glory, and perhaps a few back-to-back installments to make things doubly interesting? Surly, this can’t be asking too much. Not for the fans who cheer year in and year out, who scold those who don’t believe that ten seconds is enough time to make a come back, and who hate the sound of the silence after a loss just as much as the ecstatic cries from the other side after a win. A true rivalry is about history, and all of those who tune in each game day to see whether today is the day for it.

They found a fertile field ready for shuckin’

Thursday, October 25th, 2012


Michigan has played a total of seven games against Nebraska, the first of which was in 1905. For history’s sake we’ll just pass by last year’s first meeting in the Big Ten, and so as not to stir up bad blood, I’m also banishing into the corner that 2005 Alamo Bowl. Here’s a look at the game scores of the Wolverines’ other five encounters with the Cornhuskers.

Michigan beat Nebraska in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl

1905- Michigan 31 Nebraska 0

1911- Michigan 6 Nebraska 6

1917- Michigan 20 Nebraska 0

1962- Michigan 13 Nebraska 25

1985- Michigan 27 Nebraska 23 (Fiesta Bowl)

Michigan leads the all-time series 4-2-1.

The 1905 Huskers were undefeated in their first four games prior to heading into Ann Arbor. The Wolverines, however, had a different idea of how the day would end and wished to be rid of the controversy that arose three years earlier when Michigan was crowned Western Champion despite Nebraska posting an unblemished schedule, all of which were shutouts. Not to mention the fact that the point-a-minute head coach for Michigan, Fielding H. Yost, had been calling the plays in Lincoln only a short time before. It was not to be for the away team as the Wolverines scored 31 points in the second half, and a most disappointed Cornhuskers went back to Antelope Field to crush poor Creighton the next week 102-0.

For the 1911 tie, MVictors.com provided a synopsis from the original Michigan Daily. “Michigan’s captain Conklin ‘saved the day’ for the Wolverines, scoring U-M’s only touchdown by converting a blocked punt in the third quarter. After an exchange of punts, Nebraska tied the score and the game ended in a 6-6 deadlock. The Daily added its maize-and-blue spin on the event reporting, ‘Outweighed, outlucked, and often outplayed, the Wolverines gave an exhibition of gameness and hard fighting that has never been seen in the west and won even the plaudits of the most loyal Cornhusker.’” It’s a shame that a rivalry didn’t bloom between the two schools as they would only play once more until the 1960s. The 1917 matchup in the Big House turned into a soup bowl as unbeaten Nebraska faced the Wolverines in the driving rain and struggled in a shutout loss.

Michigan was treated like royalty after its 6-6 tie in Lincoln in 1911

And what a shame it was considering the fine journalistic prose after the first Nebraska win over Michigan in 1962. Lyall Smith from the Detroit Free Press gave the summation: “An itinerant band of Cornhuskers paid their first visit to Michigan in 45 years Saturday, looking for work. They found a fertile field ready for shuckin’. And, man, how they shucked it.” As a side note I have to admit, though the word would be often used against the Wolverines, that the term ‘shucked’ being used to describe any part of a gridiron matchup is well worth the back and forth trips to Lincoln. Now back to ’62 for a quick recap.  The score was 19-13 in the fourth quarter, but the Cornhuskers went for it on fourth down and converted. They punched it in for a touchdown the very next play and took home the victory. A fun stat: the teams lost a combined five fumbles that day, three coming from Michigan.

The 1962 game was the first of Nebraska's two wins over Michigan

Thankfully, for the Maize and Blue faithful the next meeting resulted in a victory. Though truth be told it was hand-wrapped and delivered by Nebraska in a series of third quarter mistakes that resulted in 24 Michigan points. A fumble on their own 21 turned into a quick touchdown for the Wolverines, but that was just the start. On the kickoff the Nebraska returner fumbled the ball and Michigan recovered on the 38. Jim Harbaugh took it in for the score. But the downward spiral continued as the Huskers’ next punt was blocked and retrieved by the Wolverines at the 6-yard line.  Michigan kicked a field goal, and would seal the game in the later stages of the quarter with two pass interference calls that helped them score their final touchdown of the game. Nebraska would fail to convert a fourth down half way through the fourth quarter, but stormed back to put up seven before claiming a safety off of a play in which Michigan’s punter came out of the endzone. However, the Cornhuskers couldn’t come back with the clock starting at a little over one minute and no time outs remaining. So the Wolverines pulled it out in what seemed to be a second Christmas, and a coveted bowl win for Michigan’s most beloved coach.

This year, both teams head into the game locked at 5-2, with Michigan 3-0 and Nebraska 2-1 in Big Ten play. It is the first Legends division night game for either team, and the first time Michigan will play in Lincoln since the 1911 6-6 tie. As both teams have their eye on a place in this year’s Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis, a victory here is key.

The battle for Bunyan comes from within

Thursday, October 18th, 2012


If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.

Both Michigan and Michigan State have been playing football since its induction as a rugby-hybrid sport in the late 1800s. Since then the Wolverines and the Spartans have seen their share of tremendous athletes vying for the glory of yards gained, or players tackled. Michigan has produced three Heisman trophy winners in Tom Harmon (1940), Desmond Howard (’91), and Charles Woodson (’97), as well as 78 All-Americans and 11 national titles. And while Michigan State has yet to have a player crowned as the best in all of college football, they have had 28 All-Americans and won six national titles.

Today, I want to talk about the history of these two storied programs but, as with the rivalry, I’m keeping the discussion within the state lines. The following are players mostly born and raised in the great state of Michigan, but all graduating from high schools in our proud state. Here’s to a few of the touted home grown athletes that have meant so much to their respective team throughout the years.

Michigan

Braylon Edwards personifies homegrown players who have dominated the rivalry

Braylon Edwards (2001-04)
High School: Martin Luther King, Bishop Gallagher

After choosing his father’s alma mater Edwards went on to have an illustrious career as a wide receiver. He set records for yards gained, receptions, and ran the third fastest 200 meters in school history as a part of Michigan’s track team. Upon leaving the Big House he had earned 252 receptions, 3,541 yards, and 39 touchdowns. His outstanding performance won him the Fred Biletnikoff trophy for year’s most prolific receiver. But he won Michigan fan’s hearts in the 2004 game against the Spartans, making spectacular catches to help ensure a Wolverine victory. Also a Big Ten Conference MVP, and an All-American pick, Braylon was drafted into the NFL by the Browns in the first round.

Gerald Ford (1932-34)
High School: Grand Rapids South

A highly skilled player, Ford played on the offensive line during Michigan’s 1932 and 1933 National Championship winning teams, and in 1934 was voted as the team’s most valuable player though that was likely as much for perseverance as anything, as the Wolverines only managed a single win that season. But Ford’s legacy should also be remembered because of his adherence to his own good conscious. When in his last season opponent Georgia Tech refused to play if Willis Ward, a black player, took the field Ford threatened to quit the team altogether. He was best friends with Ward, and played in the game because Ward encouraged him to do so. His number 48 jersey was later retired by the university.

John Maulbetsch (1914-16)
High School: Ann Arbor

Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, John Maulbetsch led his team to state championships his junior and senior year of high school, and went on a few years later to play for the Wolverines at age 24. Nicknamed ‘the human bullet,’ Maulbetsch was a fearsome opponent though he stood only 5’7” and weighed but 155 pounds. It is said that in a 1914 matchup against Harvard that he rushed for 300 yards, though the figure is disputable. A writer covering the game said Michigan sent in Maulbetsch “as their battering ram,” another raves about the holes he punched into the Crimson line time and time again. He would go on to be named a first team All-American.

In two home games against MSU, Tyrone Wheatley rushed for 325 yards and four TDs

Tyrone Wheatley (1991-94)
High School: Hamilton J. Robichaud

A three time All Big Ten selection, he was not only a tremendous back but his name is littered throughout the record books of Michigan Football. He is in the top ten in such categories as career points, touchdowns scored, and career rushing yards. After his junior season he had already surpassed the most touchdowns scored by a Michigan running back. He also finished among the top ten in the Heisman trophy race in 1993.

Ron Kramer (1954-56)
High School: East Detroit

He was a three sport athlete playing in addition to football, basketball and track. A nine time varsity letter earner Kramer led both the basketball and football teams in scoring for two years. Not only a multiple sport player Ron also played on both sides of the ball, ranging in position from tight end to defensive end, from kicker to quarterback. In his later years he is remembered as the man who brought apples each week during the fall to various university offices.

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Michigan State

T.J. Duckett rushed for 211 yards against Michigan in the infamous "Spartan Bob" game

Charles Rogers: (2000-02)
High School: Saginaw

While playing for the Spartans Rogers broke the record for consecutive games with a touchdown with 13. In 2001 he also broke every Michigan State single season receiving record. He was the first receiver to lead the Spartans in scoring since the mid 1960’s, and became the third member to have more than 1,000 yards receiving on the season. Rogers also lead the Big Ten in receiving touchdowns in both 2001 and 2002. In his final season he took home the coveted Fred Biletnikoff award for best receiver, as well as being a consensus All-American.

Brad Van Pelt: (1970-72)
High School: Owosso

A wonderful baseball player, Van Pelt was approached by the Detroit Tigers after graduating high school to play in the major league. He turned them down to attend Michigan State, and would eventually play professional football for ten years with the Giants, before playing short stints with the Raiders and Browns. While playing for the Spartans he became the first defensive back to win the Maxwell Award for best college football player. Van Pelt was also a pick making machine, he had 14 interceptions during his career, and managed to run a pair back for scores. He would become a 5 time Pro-Bowl selection.

Sid Wagner: (1934-36)
High School: Lansing Central

Part of the team to end the losing streak against Michigan that had begun in 1916 and had ended in losses in each season except two which culminated in ties (It is rumored that Monday classes were cancelled by the President of the university to extend the celebrations). A terrific tackler, Wagner tallied 23 in a matchup against Boston College. He was also a consensus All-American, but at the position of offensive guard. In the first draft of the NFL he was taken eighth overall by the Detroit Lions.

Flint's Don Coleman was MSU's first black All-American

T.J. Duckett: (1999-2001)
High School: Loy Norrix

Duckett was the Spartans leading rusher in the three seasons he played, and was at the receiving end of a game winning pass during his senior season that upset the Wolverines as the clock ran out. Running 100 yards or more six times, he also put up 248 yards in a game against the Hawkeyes. His 1,420 yard season cemented his senior year as the fourth best in school history, and he became the fifth leading rusher behind yet another Duckett, his brother. The Atlanta Falcons chose him as their first round pick in 2002.

Don Coleman: (1949-51)
High School: Flint Central

A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and the first in school history to have his number retired. Coleman was also the first black player to be named an All-American at Michigan State, and would go on to become the first black member of the Spartan coaching staff. Because his mother was worried about young Don sustaining an injury he didn’t play football until his senior year of high school, but he still earned the title of All-State guard. At State he played tackle despite being the lightest person on the team at just under 180 pounds, and the Chicago Daily Tribune even commented that Don “probably is packed with more football per pound than any man in the United States.” Coleman’s accolades number too many to count specifically, but his own words tell part of the story as to why he was such a dynamic player. He believed in a necessity of a good education, “I think it’s wonderful that football gave me a college education.”

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If there is one thing that Michigan and Michigan State fans can agree on, it’s that they both want to keep the best athletes the state has to offer at home. Now, what school they chose is a different ball game, but something in me thinks that no matter what fans in Michigan love to watch home grown talent excel, no matter what color he dons. Although they are sure to be a little sore about it on the one day each year that they see a man in a uniform that they think would have looked so much better in theirs.

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* There are 96 players currently on the two rosters that hail from the state of Michigan (43 on Michigan, 53 on Michigan State). Among them, home grown players that could make an impact on Saturday are:

Michigan: Devin Gardner, Raymon Taylor, Justice Hayes, Devin Funchess, Kenny Demens, Dennis Norfleet, Thomas Gordon, Thomas Rawls, Desmond Morgan, and Will Campbell.

Michigan State: Andrew Maxwell, Max Bullough, Aaron Burbridge, Bennie Fowler, William Gholston, Tony Lippett, Dion Sims, Chris Norman.