I don't care how you slice it, picking names will be tough.
Last fall, Michigan introduced the "Michigan Football Legends" as an alternative to retiring uniform numbers, honoring Desmond Howard before the Under The Lights game with a patch that now adorns the #21 jersey. As one of three Heisman Trophy winners to don the Maize and Blue, Howard was more than deserving of such an honor, and I'd wager that one Charles Woodson is due for a patch of his own in the near future.
I'm a fan of this, and hope that the families of players whose jerseys are currently retired—the Wistert brothers (#11), Bennie Oosterbaan (#47), Gerald Ford (#48), Ron Kramer (#87), and Tom Harmon (#98)—eventually decide it's better to see those jerseys once again placed in the rotation, their accomplishments recognized in a way the fans actually see every week during the fall*. If that happens, however, we'll quickly face the issue of diluting the honor; if all the retired jerseys become "Legends" and you add Woodson to the mix, all of a sudden you have seven jerseys with patches before getting to guys like Anthony Carter, Bennie Friedman, and (eventually) Jake Long.
Where do you draw the line? On one hand, there are a multitude of players who could merit such an honor; it isn't difficult to make the case for such players as Dan Dierdorf, Mark Messner, Braylon Edwards, Mike Hart, Willie Heston (though he didn't wear a jersey number, making it rather implausible that he'll be celebrated in this fashion), Bob Chappuis... the list goes on. On the other hand, the awarding of a Legend jersey loses some of its luster if half of the starting 22 is rocking a patch every year. The way I see it, there are two ways to handle this issue.
The first is simple and obvious: only give out Legend status to a very select few. Edwards and Hart, for example, were remarkable to watch on the field, made their mark on the record books, were wildly popular amongst fans, and in Braylon's case had an indelible signature moment ('04 MSU). Still, I don't think either merits inclusion among the pantheon of Michigan legends, even if the focus is solely on on-field accomplishments; this would be an honor reserved for truly once-in-a-generation athletes. Edwards is probably closer than Hart in this regard, but the shadow of three-time All-American Anthony Carter looms large. If we're going by this method, I'd give out Legend jerseys for the retired numbers, Howard, Woodson, AC, Chappuis, and Friedman. That's it, at least for now.
The second option, which I find preferable, is to be a little more generous with the Legend distinction, but be relatively selective when it comes to handing out those jerseys. While I realize this brings about the same problem as retired uniforms—if nobody merits a Legend jersey, you start running out of numbers in a hurry—there's also an easy solution for that: keep using the honored numbers, but only affix the Legend patch for a player who plays the same position as the legendary player in question. Raymon Taylor wore #21 last year even after the Notre Dame game, but the defensive back's jersey was patchless. With Roy Roundtree wearing Howard's number this year, however, Taylor switched over to #6 in the spring. [EDIT: Taylor actually switched before the SDSU game last year, but the point remains—this can be done.]
Using this method, you have a real drawing point for players from each position group—we saw this week with Leon McQuay III how much of a recruiting pitch these jerseys can potentially be—and also get the chance to recognize even more of Michigan's rich football history. It isn't hard to find a player worth remembering at each position group:
QB: Bennie Friedman (#27)
RB: Tom Harmon (#98), Bob Chappuis (#49)
WR: Desmond Howard (#21), Anthony Carter (#1)
TE: Bennie Oosterbaan (#47)
OT: Dan Dierdorf (#72) or Jake Long (#77) (I'd probably lean towards Long)
OG: Steve Hutchinson (#76)
C: Gerald Ford (#48) (Not sure if coaches would want a lineman wearing a number that low, but I'd love to see it)
DT: The Wistert brothers (#11)
DE: Ron Kramer (#87) (Fudged a little, but Kramer played just about everything)
LB: Ron Simpkins (#40)
DB: Charles Woodson (#2)
Again, not all of these would be given out every year, especially since you might be hard-pressed to find a quarterback who wants to wear #27 or a running back ready to rock a number most commonly found on the defensive line. I really enjoy seeing college players wear numbers that don't traditionally fit their position, however, so I'd love to see some of these, especially a star defensive tackle wearing #11.
Honoring Carter could also help Michigan finally free the #1 jersey from the grasp of Edwards. I realize Edwards funds a scholarship, which makes this a tricky situtation, but I'd hope he would understand the historical impact of Carter and his status as the patriarch of the #1 jersey tradition for Michigan receivers. Or, now that I'm done laughing, Michigan just does it anyway because it's the right thing to do.
This may be spreading the Legend concept a little thin this early in its existence—what happens, say, when we're far enough past the careers of Denard, Woodley, and the next generation of Wolverines?—but it does a great job of acknowledging players of every era, a point I find important for such a historically-driven endeavor. Now, has anybody asked Denard how he feels about wearing #27?
*I doubt your average Michigan fan knows about the Wisterts, which is criminal when you realize that three brothers all were All-American tackles at the same school. That's just ridiculous, and we should be reminded of this fact every time a Wolverine trots out onto the field wearing #11.
I don't care how you slice it, picking names will be tough.
If this a replacement for retiring jerseys I don't see why you would go and give a legends patch to a player if you didn't want to retire their jersey. Desmond probably deserved to have his jersey retired and Woodson probably deserved to have his jersey retired the second he decided to declare for the draft. Hart, Woodley, Braylon, good to great players, but if they didn't get their jerseys retired I don't think anyone complains. Anthony Carter I think is right on the brink of needing his jersey retired, and that will truly make the #1 jersey special again. Besides 1 and 2 I say go back and add a patch for the numbers already retired and then make getting a patch as hard or harder as it is to get a number retired anywhere else.
I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill, Ace.
Give it to players who have had their jersey number retired, should have their jersey number retired, or have won a Heisman. That's it.
I'm a little curious why an outstanding player would want to wear a number already dedicated to a previous legend. For instance, Ace, you wondered at the end of your article how Denard would feel about wearing 27, but by keeping the 16, who knows? Maybe his number might one day be honored as a "Michigan Football Legend" and wouldn't that be preferable?
Don't players want to make their own mark on the program, rather than exist in the shadow of their predecessors?
Denard was probably a bad example, since he's very much established himself as a player who's made his mark on the program and a specific uniform number—that was half in jest since people were suggesting he switch to the #1 jersey before this season. That's really a tough question to answer, and I think it comes down to the individual player; a guy like Taylor Lewan wanted to follow in the footsteps of Jake Long, and it just so happens he's also an All-American caliber tackle. For other players, presumably like Denard, making their own mark is a big deal.
I actually think this will help keep the Legends jerseys from being overused. Your top receiver may be a guy like Roundtree, who decides to honor Howard in his senior season, or it could be a guy like Manningham who makes #86 his own. Both are great, and while we make a big deal about the number, it's really the player himself that makes the real mark—we'd remember Denard even if he suited up wearing #65 next season.
65 is available? Has Omameh left the team?!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELP US!!!!!!!!!!!
That's a great point. I think that the only numbers immune to that thinking would be 1 and 2 just because of the lore surrounding them.
Do a patch for the current retired numbers and nation player of the years (be that Heisman, Maxwell, Walter Camp, Bednarik) and leave it at that and then probably the #1 jersey because of what it stands for. This probably completely leaves out O-linemen, but it's just an example method. If you want I guess you could add a lineman of the year winner too.
Hart and Edwards and Long were all great, great players for Michigan, but then you start getting nit-picky through the years. Before Hart it was the A-Train, before him Wheatley. The point being that each generation has "their guys", and when you start looking at it like that, the numbers add up. Keep it pretty exclusive IMO.
I love Anthony Carter, but I think giving Desmond the Legends patch at #21 and calling it a day is just fine until another Heisman-winning WR shows up.
Heisman winners or currently retired jerseys, and then wait for the next guy.
The problem these patches will eventually create as opposed to retiring jerseys will be that all of our best players will be wearing "patched" numbers. What happens when a new once-in-a-generation player comes up? What if Calvin Johnson and Jerry Rice's love child comes to UofM and wears #1? Does the patch change player designations, gain multiple designations or is it just first-come-first-served?
I've got a #11 helmet on my desk, I'd love to see that number on a scratched up helmet on one Pee Wee Pipkins. Would have rocked if Martin could have donned it.
The solution to too many legends is easy. As you said, each position group gets a "hallowed" number that can be awarded to the top guy in at that position (if he's worthy). Then erect a monument outside the stadium on which you engrave the list of the guys who are granted legend status. Sort of like the Stanley Cup. That way you can honor both Carter and Edwards with the #1 legend. You can also incent the legends jersey even more by doing this. As it is, if you get the #21, great, but you'll never have YOUR number enshrined, since you're wearing someone elses jersey. Associating multiple names with the same legend jersey makes it so the ONLY way you get enshrined is by first earning the legends number, then if you rise even farther, you get your name etched into stone.
I'd leave Ford's jersey retired permanently. If the only way you get a jersey retired is to be an all american and a president, I don't think we're going to run out of numbers too quickly.
I like. It'd be great to see a monument like that in the concourse. I'd also be on board for permanently retiring the number of any POTUS.
Yeah, Gerald Ford's #48 should be retired.
The story about Gerald Ford and Willis Ward should be mandatory reading for Michigan football players (or Michigan students in general).
of figuring out who gets "Legend" status and who doesn't seems like a good problem to have. I would rather argue about this year after year than anything else. Here's to this problem never going away!!
So if a player wearing a legacy patch jersey becomes a legend himself do they add his name to the patch?
A picture is worth
$25 million in additional brand-platform monetization through apparel marketing a thousand words:
They need to make the patch smaller. We don't need all that text on it. Just a simple "HOWARD - 21" is sufficient.
Just like those uniform tribute when people die.
While I generally support the approach towards numbers, I take issue with a couple of the arguments above.
A lot of recruits act very impressed after a visit. What they SAY doesn't always mean much. I'd like to see an actual commit make a big deal about a number before we draw conclusions about it's potential impact. DB recruits have gotten excited about Woodson well before there was any talk of formally honoring #2 with a patch.
I don't think it's 'the right thing to do' at all, to pull the #1 jersey away from any association with Braylon. A minority of fans who actually care and follow stuff like this don't like the guy's personality - that doesn't change what he accomplished at Michigan and the generosity he has shown on several fronts. In Braylon's eyes (and mine) the #1 already honors Carter, who was the original. It's okay for it to honor the other #1s that followed him AND coach Carr's interpretation/deployment of it as an 'honor' that needed to be earned.
Can even put the 3rd digit on the helmet. ::duck::
Hoke: "Come to Michigan and be the first to rock six sigma!"
What about chemistry formula?
eg. Li2 for Dilithium
Is there any rule that players have to wear a whole number??
You should have to be a two time all american or heisman winner at least to get a patch to honor you. What if the new kid wearing the jersey with a patch turns out to be the greatest player in the history of Michigan football? Do you put his name on the patch instead? Due away with the patches and retired numbers. What the hell is the hall of fame for?
It should be as rare as retiring a jersey was. This just allows it to be kept in use, rather than running out of numbers, or losing some cool ones. So after Charles, that should be it. You don't have to win a Heisman to have your number retired...but your accomplishments should be pretty comparable to a Heisman winner. The only other one I can think of is AC, and he's defacto honored by the method they chose, which is basically treating all special numbers like the #1. If they want to throw a patch on there too, fine.
But I don't see any of the guys you listed as "Legends" guys. Hart, Henne, Long, Woodley, Edwards, Denard...it's not just stats, or draft status (I mean, let's retire Tom Brady!). It's being a leader on and off the field for teams that win championships by making amazing plays and accomplishments. Desmond and Charles were on championship teams and didn't lose to Ohio State. These guys come along once every player generation...there aren't multiple ones on the same team.
And if you're not alive, it might be nice for the family, but it rings hollow if you couldn't honor them when they were alive. I mean we really used to retire jerseys, and they were passed up. No need to start throwing out numbers just to add patches.
And you don't want to restrict the wearing of them because the whole point is to be able to keep using them and have players and recruits want to wear them. If you're going to not hand them out, just retire them.
If Denard wins the Heisman or leads us to an undefeated season, fine. Otherwise leave it alone and make it special.
"The only rule is that members of the offensive line (centers, guards, and tackles) that play in ineligible positions (those that may not receive forward passes) must wear numbers between 50–79."
That's up to 30 a decade! Twenty years, they're all patched just about. Maybe 3 every 20 years.
about catching up, and establishing the pool. It would slow to a trickle after several years.
I too looked at it less as "Where do you draw the line?" than "How often do we do it?". Once every 4 years you pick the most deserving. That's 5-10 in our lifetimes, then we let our kids worry about it. That's the American way =)
I think the danger of retiring (or "honoring") numbers is that it can be done too soon--before anybody has a true perspective on a player's legacy. I propose that we should wait 20 years before anybody's number is retired or honored; that is long enough to give people time to develop some perspective on just how important a player was to our program, but still a short enough time that we are not just honoring people who aren't really well known to the current fan base. Even 15 years might be okay; I'm thinking that right around when the player turns 40 is when we should decide whether or not he deserves the honor.
The timing with Desmond was perfect; a few more years and we will honor Woodson as well.
The more I thought about this topic, the more I started leaning in this direction—the initial title of this post when I started drafting it yesterday was called "Legends And The Dilution Of Greatness", which obviously leaned in a different direction. At first I though we should just limit things to the retired jerseys and Heisman winners, but when I thought about my logic behind it, I didn't have much of an argument beyond "these things should be exclusive", and I wasn't even sure why that was really the case. Plus, with players deciding to wear their high school number, honor a family member or idol, whatever, I don't think you're going to run into the issue of having too many players wearing Legend uniforms.
Besides, the initial wave of Legends will naturally be larger than the number of players honored when the tradition takes hold; right now we're catching up on over a century of extremely successful football. I'd expect the pace will slow down no matter how generously they decide to hand out Legend status.
Idea that isn't very well thought out:
Give permanent patches to #21, #1 and #2 and select players to wear those by whatever the current process is. In addition each season allow X number of players (more than 1 but less than 4) as chosen by the coaches and senior leadership to pick a number and a corresponding patch for their use for that season.
For example: Going into 2012 the senior leadership picks Fitz to have a patch for this season and his favorite player was Mike Hart. Fitz could switch his jersey to #20 with a Mike Hart patch for that season.
Then the next season you start the process over again and maybe Fitz gets picked again and continues honoring Mike Hart or maybe he doesn't get picked and the Mike Hart patch goes away until someone picks it down the road.
The only issue I would see with this is that most of the people being honored would have likely played within the lifetime of that player making it harder to honor guys who played 30 to 100 years ago.
Typed out it sounds kind of dumb but I think rotating patches each season allows the program to limit the number of players wearing patches in any given season to a reasonable amount and you give more current and former players a chance to be part of a fun little tradition.
Now you can recruit kids with the promise of the jersey of their position, celebrate any legend who wore that jersey with some sort of monument, avoid premature awarding of the jersey, and still keep the door open to new jersey legends in the future.
I really don't like the honoring numbers business whether it's retirement or a patch. Football is a team game and nobody should be singled out for any special honor with respect to uniforms. There called uniforms for a reason.
A place like Michigan is loaded with history at every position and number so literally everyone on the team should feel the same pride and respect when getting dressed.
Maybe athletes with truly exceptional stories could have a retired number...but it should be based more on their legacy beyond the playing field. A president like Gerald Ford is a pretty big deal. I could also see it for a humanitarian like Raoul Wallenberg (if he had been on the football team) or a pioneer like Jackie Robinson (if he had gone to Michigan). The point is that the honor should speak to more than just football accomplishment and be congruent with the values of the university beyond just those of fans and athletes. Legends, in other words.
that they will give out dierdorf soon, since he is still alive, is in the nfl hall of fame, has a high profile and is a link to bo's glory days. i think that having a living honorary is key so that they can be applauded by 100,000+ and my eyes can both get something in them at the same time.
Don't we have a rule that we won't retire your number if you didn't graduate? Would we apply a similar rule to being patched? And if so, wouldn't that eliminate Woodson?
Yes, you must have a college degree to have your number retired at Michigan. I am certain that it is an athletic department rule.
I don't know if it applies to patches as well, and I don't know if Woodson has a college degree or not.
At the event I wrote about last week, woodson mentioned he had recently found out how much work he still had to do for his degree. It's possible the athletic department and he got together to discuss this, especially when in one of his previous answers he said something like "I'm not supposed to be talking about that" when asked about being a Legend. This may all be linked.
Ron Kramer and Gary Maentz were tight ends.
1. I said I fudged that a bit, since I needed a DE and already had a TE.
2. From the Bentley:
As a Wolverine, Kramer was an excellent two way player on the gridiron, occupying at some point the positions of offensive and defensive end, running back, quarterback, kicker, and receiver, often all in the same game. Despite these talents, coach Bennie Oosterbaan described his blocking and tackling ability as the most valuable asset to the Michigan squad.
The second option is most appealing. Only one Legends jersey should be announced each time there's a night game at the Big House. If the rate of Big House night games continues at about 1 every other year, then it'll take a decade to award 5 jerseys, making it quite an honor to be named a Legend. That would also make it a very special occasion whenever a new Legend is named.
Is it possible to create the lockers and award certain players the locker and the distinction, but only actually wear the patch & jersey on the designated "Legends" game? Perhaps it becomes a homecoming tradition? Could Denard wear an "empatched" #27 for just one game next year? Yet be given the combination to the Friedman Legend Locker for the whole year?
I think it should be severely limited. It shouldn't be a slight to not get a "legend' denomination. Instead, getting it should be considered a special honor. Harmon, Woodson, Howard. If it takes glory away from offensive linemen, they should be used to it.
Brought this very point up on another site the day after the ND game last year. No more than 2 a year can be issued or it becomes a joke. However, where is the line drawn for how many numbers/players get this honor? If you have 15 patches/jerseys than thats 13-14 numbers a year you have to avoid. Not impossible but odd if a kid really wants a number and cannot have it because we used to have a player in 1917 who we consider a legend and "we're not giving out that number this year". It becomes a joke based on a good idea. Fine line, indeed.
Michigan Stadium is Zach Novak's Legacy Jersey.
Heisman or President.
#2, #21, #48, #98
The fewer patches the better. They are too big. Honor Heisman winners and AC only.
I think a combo of option 1 & 2 works best. You only get the best of the best with patches and it allows you to grow for the future.
I like the idea of expanding the use of the patches overall. I think it's a good way to honor former players and reward current players.
I haven't really figured out how I feel about the legends jersey concept. I do think right now it's kind of haphazard and thus bound to establish some undesireable results. I'd rather have the numbers in circulation than retired, or semi-retired due to nobody meeting too-high expectations for it like with 1. But I also don't want them to replace established numbers, or to sit on the bench, or to become so exclusive that it turns off recruits who would be interested in that number for other reasons.
I don't like the idea of switching jerseys mid- or late-career. I think a player who starts having an impact when they're young makes their number their own. It's one thing for Braylon to ask to switch from 80 to 1 because he is stepping up from being the 3rd receiver to The Guy. That stuff is cool from time to time. What I don't like is Roundtree going to 21 to honor Desmond for jus this senior year. We have this picture in our minds of Roy Roundtree as a Michigan player, and he's wearing 12. What if Hart switched to 98 in 2007? Hart's 20, you know?
It also begs the question of establishing new legacies. What if in 2013 LaQuon Treadwell comes to Michigan, puts on 21 with the Desmond Howard patch, and then proceeds to break every receiving record in our books, winning two Heismans and a national championship in the process? /firstworldproblems. The lesser point here is what about Biakabutuka, who is a minor legend and wore 21 and is all but forgotten.
Biakabutuka brings up another thing: what about guys who want a certain number at a different position? Sam McGuffie didn't work out here, but he was really excited about wearing 2 and if I recall correctly Dee Hart was all about coming in and wearing 3. We could be creating a situation where a defensive back, say, wants to wear 21 in honor of his brother fighting with the 21st Infantry Regiment in Afghanistan (they came home in '09 -- just using as an example).
So if I'm designing this system from the ground up, screw positions and make it a thing that you can attain either as a freshman, a redshirt freshman, or a true sophomore. How it would work is a player who is interested in the Michigan Legends Program can apply to wear one of these numbers (current retired jerseys plus Benny Friedman plus 21 and 2) if they're available. He doesn't have to be the best on the team, but he must show exemplary conditioning and commitment to the program, must be in good academic standing, and must make the first team.
This leaves it open to the types of recruits who could be enticed by it, but avoids the embarassment of having a legends number on a guy who doesn't work out (e.g. JT Turner wearing Woodson's 2). It also provides the player with some extra incentive and a goal to work toward. Meanwhile it avoids having a player spend three years making a different number special (e.g. Denard and 16) only to have it changed to a number some other player made special. The odd David Terrell who comes in ready to play right away can win #1 and have that push him to live up to Anthony Carter's number his whole career. The Molk who wins the center job as a RS freshman could take Gerald Ford's number. The Denard who as a true sophomore leaps an established starter from his same class could, if he so chose, take 27. And there would still be plenty of time left to establish those players in those numbers. Meanwhile the numbers would circulate with less frequency, but when they were used, since you need a certain level of talent to earn a starting job at Michigan at one of those positions so early in your career, they'd most often be on a player worthy of carrying on the legacy
The program could include, provided he's alive, some sort of support or mentorship from the Legend who established that jersey.
Furthermore let it be established that new Legends jerseys cannot be designated until 10 years after the player graduates or would have graduated if they left early, and the number shall stay in circulation until then (so for example if this was in place, 2 could be worn by anybody until 2009, when Woodson would be eligible to become a Legend).
As for the too many patches problem: I agree a clean looking jersey is preferable, but there's only limited space and honestly I'd rather there be a big oval Desmond Howard Patch marring the clean look than a corporate logo or even the Block M. Patches will creep; it is a certainty of sports uniforms. If there's a spot where only a big patch can go, then that spot will have to remain empty of other patches on the rest of the jerseys.