The Michigan Men of '39 and 85

The Michigan Men of '39 and 85

Submitted by Waveman on October 12th, 2016 at 2:58 PM

My Story:

My first visit to Michigan Stadium was against Michigan State in 1988 with my grandfather. I was ten years old.  It was one of the best experiences of my young life.  I marveled at the 106,000 fans, the band marching in perfect step across the field as I pumped my fist to “The Victors”, at cheerleaders doing backflips off the wall, at Leroy Hoard, Greg McMurtry, and Mark Messner.

I saw it all, from the 50 yard line, one row above the tunnel.  

I ran down to the rail as the team took the field, holding my hand out for whatever high-fives I could get.  I was a budding offensive lineman at the time, so getting up close to the massive man-mountain that was Greg Skrepenak was a thrill. 

Earlier that day, that ten year old kid - obsessed with all Wolverine sports - got to eat a pre-game lunch on the floor of Crisler Arena.  I met Forrest Evashevski.  I shook hands with Tom Harmon! 

I did all of this at the hip of my grandfather, who was showing off his grandson to his old buddies as much as he was showing me U of M.  He only left my side for a short while at halftime of that game, when he walked to the middle of the field with his teammates.

This was the 50th reunion of the 1938-1940 University of Michigan football teams, and my grandfather got a standing ovation from 106,000 people.

His Story:

It’s been so much fun, this week, to see the 1939 University of Chicago game mentioned over and over.  Everyone loves an opportunity to share the pride they have in their loved ones, and the man who introduced me to Michigan Football started at guard that day in Chicago.  He was part of the 85 points scored the last time a Wolverine team dominated an opponent as thoroughly as this year’s team did Rutgers. 

This is from the 1938 team picture.  My grandfather, Fred Olds (#56), is on the right, the other starting guard from the Chicago game, Milo Sukup, is in the top left, and Tom Harmon is in the bottom left. 

 photo Olds-Harmon-Sukup.jpg


After graduating Michigan, my grandfather went on to serve in the Pacific Theater during WWII.  He married a U of M alumna.  They had three children, but lost one at a very young age.  He worked as an engineer. He traveled the world speaking to scientists and policy makers as an expert on Nuclear Power.  He became editor of Power Engineering Magazine.  He was part of a group that founded the city of Prospect Heights, IL.  He was brilliant. He was quick to smile and make others smile in turn.

Years later, he watched his son enroll at Michigan, get married, and then go off to Vietnam –to fight another war across the Pacific.  That son gave him a grandson, one of 4 grandchildren.  In 1988 he took that grandson to meet the men who had been so large a part of his story 50 years prior.

I don’t know all of their stories, or even most.  We all know about “Harmon of Michigan.”  I know that at least 3 other members of that team are also in the College Football Hall of Fame.  I know that Evashevski coached Iowa to a National Championship.  David Nelson invented the winged-T formation and brought the winged helmets to the University of Delaware. 

I also know that most of these men went straight from the gridiron to the war.  Most then went on to have families of their own.  There were other children at that reunion: likely grandkids who forged their fandom that day, and will someday pass it on.

12 years after my first game, my grandfather’s friends met up again.  They expanded the reunion to include teams from 1938-1942, but still there were fewer of them that time around.  I came across this picture from that day, which inspired me to write this (now incredibly long) post.  My grandfather is kneeling in the front, viewer’s right. 

38-42TeamReunion photo UM Team Reunion 1938-1942.jpeg


Our Story:

The perfect frame for all of this eludes me, but the team we’re seeing now looks more and more like the teams he introduced me to.  My fandom started at his house, watching games in which Jim Harbaugh played quarterback.  Now Harbaugh’s back, and so is the winning.  It’s a team and a coach in the image of Harbaugh’s hero, Bo Schembechler.  Bo passed just before the last epic showdown between Michigan and Ohio State, and now his protégé is poised to lead us into the next. 

There’s something here about the passage of time, about emulating our heroes, about loss and reclamation and salvation.  Maybe it’s just being reminded more clearly of the things and people that we loved and that brought us so much happiness.

I don’t know if that group met again in 2010, because my grandfather had since passed.  77 years after the game against Chicago, I’m sure most members of that team have joined him.  One of the great things about College Football – and Michigan Football specifically – though, is the celebration of history.  Each historic event recalls the achievements of the past… tying these events together across generations of fans. 

As we celebrate 78-0, I thank everyone who has helped to remember 85-0.  I especially remember one of the great men who made it happen.  I’d love to hear from anyone else connected to that team.

OT: Anti-porn film from 60s starring Tom Harmon rediscovered

OT: Anti-porn film from 60s starring Tom Harmon rediscovered

Submitted by club_med on January 19th, 2016 at 4:31 PM

For the amusement of the young people who've grown up with internet pornography, here's the moral doomsday scenario they imagined coming to pass, due to smut mags and salacious books, back in the 60s. Starring our own Tom Harmon.

And a news story on the film and its history

Bentley After Hours: Nebraska Weekend

Bentley After Hours: Nebraska Weekend

Submitted by Seth on October 31st, 2013 at 1:05 PM


Mike Murphy, Michigan's first head coach

Got word from The Bentley Library today that they'll be offering extended hours on November 8 (Friday before the Nebraska game), staying open from 5pm to 8 pm. Greg Kinney and Brian Williams will be giving a presentation on some of Michigan's football firsts showing some of the unique photos and documents available at the Bentley.

They'll also offer extending viewing hours for the "Harmon of Michigan" exhibit and at least one showing of the 1965 TV program "One Saturday Afternoon" celebrating the 25th anniversary of Harmon's extraordinary 1940 season featuring game footage and interviews with Harmon, Crisler and Forest Evashevski. They'll also show Yost's 1st contract, the original team #1 photo and other gems to highlight some unique aspects of Michigan's football history.

Is #98 the new #1?

Is #98 the new #1?

Submitted by Blue and Joe on September 16th, 2013 at 8:07 PM

I'm in the market for my first ever Michigan football jersey. Ever since I was a kid I wanted a #1 jersey (because of David Terrell). Now they don't really use that number, or even sell that jersey (except for a few places).

I'm wondering if the #98 jersey will become the new #1. Each year it will be given to the best player. Potentially you could always have the jersey of the best player. I guess it's hard to say how often they will give it out. If all else fails it's still a Tom Harmon jersey.


EDIT: ONE OF the best players. Better?

Urban Meyer: "Tom Harmon has one of the bright young minds in college football"

Urban Meyer: "Tom Harmon has one of the bright young minds in college football"

Submitted by markusr2007 on April 25th, 2012 at 4:50 PM

OK, so he means Tom Herman, not Harmon.

Well, he might have said it......I mean it's right there in black and white.

"Tom Harmon has one of the bright young minds in college football," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said of his coach who is, indeed, intellectual enough to be a member of the national high-IQ society, MENSA. "His philosophies are very similar to those of my own."

Tom Harmon at Ohio State 1940:



OT: UM Veterans

OT: UM Veterans

Submitted by UMgradMSUdad on November 11th, 2011 at 8:12 AM

Since today is Veteran's Day, I got to thinking of Michigan football players who were veterans.  I remember watching Mike Lantry, the Vietnam Vet and FG kicker, on TV as a kid.  I know Tom Harmon also served following his career at Michigan.  Are there other veterans you can think of who played Michigan football (or other sports, for that matter)?

Happy Birthday Tom Harmon

Happy Birthday Tom Harmon

Submitted by zohizzle101 on September 28th, 2011 at 9:45 AM

One of the greatest Michigan Men to suit up in the Maize and Blue. 

Some fun facts and stats via wikipedia:

Harmon played college football at the University of Michigan from 1938–1940, he majored in English and Speech, hoping for a future career in broadcasting, and won the Heisman Trophy his senior season. He made his name as a tailback in the single-wing formation, and also excelled as a kicker. Harmon rushed for 2,134 yards during his career at Michigan, completed 100 passes for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns, and scored 237 points. During his career he played all 60 minutes 8 times. He also was a member of the varsity basketball team for two years.


Jersey #(s)
Born September 28, 1919 in Rensselaer, Indiana
Died March 15, 1990 (aged 70)
Career information
Year(s) 19461947
NFL Draft 1941 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
College Michigan
Professional teams
Career stats
Rushing Yards 542
Average 5.1
Touchdowns 9 (3 rushing)
Stats at
Career highlights and awards



Flashback in time:

On this day in 1940, which also happened to be Harmon's 21'st birthday, Michigan faced off UCLA where Tom Harmon scored four touchdowns to lead Michigan to a 41-0 win at Cal. During one of his 4 long touchdown runs, a Cal fan had enough of the Wolverine football star and decided to take matters into his own hands. Here is a news clipping of the incident: (via LIFE Magazine, Oct 14, 1940, Vol. 9, No. 16, Pg 47)

Full size article screenshot

Who would be in a Michigan Football Ring of Honor?

Who would be in a Michigan Football Ring of Honor?

Submitted by m1jjb00 on July 17th, 2011 at 8:49 PM

[Ed-M: Bump'ed like Elliott]

Brian got me thinking about who deserves to be in a Michigan ring of honor, so I did the only thing I know:  Dump a bunch of data into a spreadsheet and rank them arbitrarily. I gave a point for being the College Hall of Fame, Michigan's Hall of Honor, Michigan retiring their number, points equal to the number of years being an All American, being in the top four in the Heisman (another 2 for winning it), and up to a point for winning other post-season awards.  One could include other considerations, such as championships, captaincy, or being President of the United States.

The table below presents the data, sorted first by points and then year.

Some comments:

I would think anyone Chappuis and above deserves to be in.

I included only some 2-point guys of interest in the table below, most of whom aren't in Michigan's Hall of Honor or the Hall of Fame.

Coaches aren't included, except Kipke who is there because of his playing, though I don't know how much of his playing versus coaching got him in the Hall of Fame.

Why is Benbrook not in Michigan's Hall of Honor?

Obviously newer guys benefit from the various awards now available. The Heisman was first awarded in 1935. I would think Heston could have won it.

In 1939 Harmon finished 2nd in the Heisman voting to Nile Kinnick before winning it in 1940.

The All of American data are a bit surprising.  Gerald Ford isn't listed.  I had thought Carter was a three-year All American.  There may be other surprises.  I used a list from the NCAA (data source below), which made it easy, but the list may be flawed.

Player Yrs HoF MHoH # All Am Heisman Awards
Tom Harmon 37-40 y y y 2 2nd, 1st Maxwell
Desmond Howard 89-92 y y   1 1st Maxwell, Camp, Nagurski, Bednarik
Bennie Oosterbaan 24-27 y y y 3    
Alvin Wistert 47-49 y y y 2    
Ron Kramer 53-56 y y y 2    
Anthony Carter 79-82 y y   2 4th  
Charles Woodson 95-97       1 1st Camp, Thorpe
Willie Heston 01-04 y y   2    
Benny Friedman 23-26 y y   2    
Francis Wistert 30-33 y y y 1    
Albert Wistert 38-42 y y y 1    
Bob Chappuis 42, 46-47 y y   1 2nd  
Neil Snow 1898-02 y y   1    
Adolph Schulz 04-05, 07-08 y y   1    
Albert Benbrook 08-10 y     2    
Harry Kipke 20-23 y y   1    
Harry Newman 29-32 y y   1    
Robert Westfall 38-41 y y   1    
Jim Mandich 66-69 y y   1    
Tom Curtis 67-69 y y   1    
Dan Dierdorf 67-70 y y   1    
Reggie McKenzie 68-71 y y   1    
Dave Brown 72-74 y     2    
Chris Perry 00-03       1 4th Walker
Rob Lytle 73-76       1 3rd  
Mark Donahue 74-77       2    
Rick Leach 75-78   y     3rd  
Tripp Welbourne 87-90       2    
Braylon Edwards 01-04       1   Biletnikoff
David Baas 01-04       1   Rimington
LaMarr Woodley 03-06       1   Lombardi, Hendricks
Jake Long 04-07       2    

Data Sources: All-American, Heisman and other award data, Michigan Hall of Honor, and College Football Hall of Fame

Reminder - Tom Harmon - Tomorrow

Reminder - Tom Harmon - Tomorrow

Submitted by Not a Member on February 5th, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Tomorrow on BTN, after Michigan's win over Penn State (2:30 pm according to DirecTV), is the newest edition of Big Ten Icon with Tom Harmon at #5 on the countdown.

I watched the Woodson episode for the first time today and thought it was pretty good.  I'm really looking forward to Harmon's.

See original post from MGoShoe: