Jon Falk To Retire

Submitted by Brian on July 22nd, 2013 at 1:07 PM

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MVictors

Effective at the end of the season, Michigan's iconic equipment manager Jon Falk will retire.

Falk was formed in the strata underneath Ann Arbor sometime in the late Cretaceous era and unearthed by Fielding Yost during the construction of Michigan Stadium. Falk handed Yost a winged helmet, and was offered a job. In the intervening epoch he has equipped Michigan football players head to toe as they won more games than any other program, and at least part of this paragraph is factual.

Some more fact-like facts from the press release:

“I remember the day that Bo Schembechler interviewed me and said that working at the University of Michigan would present great opportunities for my career,” said Falk. “He offered me the position but I decided that staying home to care for my mom and grandmother was more important. My mom woke up at 4 a.m. and came to me with tears in her eyes and said, ‘Jon, you are going to Michigan. Bo and the University of Michigan are going to take care of you and this will be a great career move.’ As I reflect on my nearly 40 years at Michigan, I have been fortunate to work with some great coaches, administrators and thousands of players. After talking with Dave Brandon about my retirement, I realized that Bo and my mother were right. Dave and Michigan have taken care of me. I’m appreciative of all that I learned, was a part of and contributed to at Michigan. This is a special place and I will always love Michigan and Michigan Football.”

“Jon has given so much of his life to Michigan Football and we are all grateful to him for his dedication, passion and loyal service to our championship culture,” said head coach Brady Hoke. “He is a big part of this program and his colorful personality will be missed around Schembechler Hall, Michigan Stadium and on the road in opposing venues. We are happy that Jon will be able to enjoy retirement with his wife Cheri and family, but that is on hold until he helps us chase another Big Ten Championship this fall.”

Also, Cathy Schembechler:

Cathy Schembechler, Bo’s Widow

It is virtually impossible for any former Michigan football player from the past 40 years to talk about Michigan football and not have the name ‘Big Jonny’ pass their lips. He's easily the most important guy at Schembechler Hall that you can talk to today if you want to know about Michigan tradition. One of my favorite things to do when I go back to Ann Arbor is to sit in Big Jon's office and listen to him tell stories ... Bo stories especially. Even though I think he's softened up just a little over the years, he's still a man whose respect you have to earn, no matter who you are ... and he's loyal to a fault. His impact on and contributions to Michigan football will never be forgotten.

The full thing has many more quotes and is behind the jump.

[UPDATE via Ace: Falk talks retirement on mgoblue's un-embeddable video player]

Equipment Manager Jon Falk Announces Retirement Following 2013 Football Season

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Longtime University of Michigan equipment manager Jon Falk announced Monday (July 22) his retirement effective at the conclusion of the 2013 football season. Falk will complete 40 years of service to Michigan Athletics and the U-M football program.

“I remember the day that Bo Schembechler interviewed me and said that working at the University of Michigan would present great opportunities for my career,” said Falk. “He offered me the position but I decided that staying home to care for my mom and grandmother was more important. My mom woke up at 4 a.m. and came to me with tears in her eyes and said, ‘Jon, you are going to Michigan. Bo and the University of Michigan are going to take care of you and this will be a great career move.’ As I reflect on my nearly 40 years at Michigan, I have been fortunate to work with some great coaches, administrators and thousands of players. After talking with Dave Brandon about my retirement, I realized that Bo and my mother were right. Dave and Michigan have taken care of me. I’m appreciative of all that I learned, was a part of and contributed to at Michigan. This is a special place and I will always love Michigan and Michigan Football.”

“Jon has given so much of his life to Michigan Football and we are all grateful to him for his dedication, passion and loyal service to our championship culture,” said head coach Brady Hoke. “He is a big part of this program and his colorful personality will be missed around Schembechler Hall, Michigan Stadium and on the road in opposing venues. We are happy that Jon will be able to enjoy retirement with his wife Cheri and family, but that is on hold until he helps us chase another Big Ten Championship this fall.”

“Jon’s four decades of service to Michigan Football and our department is unprecedented and has been matched by only a few former employees,” said Dave Brandon, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. “His stories are legendary and Jon’s passion for his job and the sports equipment industry will be missed by many of those in and around our football program. Jon has been the one constant around our program when all former players, coaches and administrators come back to visit. We wish Jon a wonderful retirement … but only after he completes his 40th season helping equip our student-athletes and coaches.”

Falk is responsible for the overall budgeting of the athletic department’s equipment needs with apparel providers. He oversees a staff of three full-time assistant equipment managers and a large group of student workers.

Falk was honored for his dedication to the athletic department in 1994, receiving an honorary ‘M’ from the Letterwinners M Club. In addition, the U-M Club of Greater Detroit established the annual Hatch-Falk Scholarship for a Student Football Manager in 2000.

Falk authored a book, “If These Walls Could Talk,” with long-time Detroit Tigers PR Director Dan Ewald in 2010. Falk also made speaking engagements to U-M Alumni groups about his career behind-the-scenes with Michigan football.

A native of Oxford, Ohio, Falk graduated from Talawanda High School (1967) – where he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2012 – and earned his degree in physical education from Miami University (1971). He worked as a student manager at Miami in football and baseball as an undergraduate. After graduation, Falk accepted an assistant equipment manager position at Miami before head coach Bo Schembechler called and offered Falk his current position at Michigan in 1974.

One of the most respected equipment managers in the nation, Falk was executive director of the Athletic Equipment Managers Association (AEMA) for 24 years and was one of the organization’s founding members. He named the association’s 2001 Glen Sharp National Equipment Manager of the Year award and received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Falk and his wife, the former Cheri Boychuck of Ann Arbor, reside in Pinckney. They have three children, Joe Winkle, Nicki Pfefferle and Katie Falk, and two grandchildren, Joey Winkle and Abby Pfefferle.

Falk will remain in a consulting role following the season until a successor is determined and transitioned into the position.

Following are additional comments from those who worked closely with Falk during his long and storied Michigan career:

Jon was an outstanding equipment manager. He was well-organized, extremely well-prepared and on game day he was an advantage for Michigan.
What I appreciated most however was his presence and his voice in the locker room. His mantra was ‘the best (championship) ring is the next one,’ and that message resonated with the Michigan teams down through the years.

Lloyd Carr, U-M Football Coach (1995-2007)

Jon has been a great friend to Ann, myself and the entire Moeller family.

I think that Jon was the most knowledgeable equipment manager in the profession. He was the person that his peers across the country would lean on and ask questions of because Jon knew the answer. Jon knew how to handle the job and his responsibilities. You only had to tell him once and it was taken care.

Jon was great interacting with all of the coaches and the players on the football team. He cared about everyone that was associated with the program, treated them with professionalism and always helped Michigan football be the best.

Jon provided 40 years of great service and will always be remembered as a great Michigan Man.

Gary Moeller, U-M Football Coach (1990-95)

Jon is the last of the Bo era, forty years is a long time to be associated with something that you love. I know that Bo thought the world of Jon. They worked so well together and were best of friends. No one told a Bo story better than Jon. I'm happy for Jon and I know that Bo was always proud of Jon. Jon and I cried when he told me but I'm happy for Jon and his family ... he will be able to enjoy his retirement.

Cathy Schembechler, Bo’s Widow

It is virtually impossible for any former Michigan football player from the past 40 years to talk about Michigan football and not have the name ‘Big Jonny’ pass their lips. He's easily the most important guy at Schembechler Hall that you can talk to today if you want to know about Michigan tradition. One of my favorite things to do when I go back to Ann Arbor is to sit in Big Jon's office and listen to him tell stories ... Bo stories especially. Even though I think he's softened up just a little over the years, he's still a man whose respect you have to earn, no matter who you are ... and he's loyal to a fault. His impact on and contributions to Michigan football will never be forgotten.

Desmond Howard, U-M Heisman Trophy Winner (1989-91), ESPN College Football GameDay Analyst (2005-current)

When Jonny was hired by Bo back in the early 70's from Oxford, Ohio ... he immediately became committed to Michigan. He tells the story about his mother coming into his bedroom, late at night and telling Jon that he should take the job at Michigan because she felt strongly that Bo would take care of him. Jon was not sure he was going to take the job because it meant he would have to leave his mother in Oxford. After she told him it was the right thing for him, tearfully, he took the job and the rest is history.
In all the years I've been around Michigan football I'm not sure anyone other than coaches have had more impact on the Michigan football player than Jon Falk.
He is a legendary equipment guy. Not only was he great at Michigan, but across the country, his peers in the same capacity looked up to him, and sought him out for advice.
Jon loved Michigan football. When he first hired on, I can guarantee there wasn't anything he wouldn't do to make Michigan football better. He protected it like a mother hen. He promoted it like he was the CEO. It was his family, and he made sure he let anyone who came through the doors know it should be just as important to them.
Jon is part of the fabric of the Michigan tradition. He traces his roots back to Bo Schembechler. He is as Michigan as the winged helmet. An unforgettable character. A professional who changed the perception of the job. A good friend.
Through five football coaches and seven athletic directors, Jon has been as solid as a rock through all the change. He's been in the engine room of Michigan football and he's kept it running without a hitch since the day he arrived.

Jim Brandstatter, Former U-M Offensive Lineman (1969-72), U-M Radio Network (mid-1980s-current), U-M Football Coaches Show (1980-current)

Big Jon has been Michigan football for the past 40 years. He has served four decades of players and coaches at every level. From welcoming every new class of freshmen football players to Michigan to working with Bo, Mo, Lloyd, Rich and Brady, Big Jon has touched them all.
I had the pleasure of being around Jon for five years as a player and three as a young coach. Big Jon was always so much more than just our equipment manager. He was a friendly face who you could always get a straight answer from - whether it was about football or life. From playing the old Bob Ufer tapes in the locker room Ohio State week, to making sure you kept your locker clean (or you got wet clothes back the next day), Jon was always teaching. He talked to the players about championships and rings (his next one was always his favorite one) and demanded excellence in the locker room. He always had a feel for the team's pulse and knew how to relate to all the different personalities. He had a special relationship with all the quarterbacks over the years and I was lucky enough to be part of that club. My best summer job ever was working for Big Jon the summer I was rehabilitating my knee. I didn't get much work done but I got my Masters in Michigan football from being around him.

Big Jon has been the one constant who has always welcomed the former players back to Schembechler Hall with open arms and a big smile. It was like you never left.

Big Jon has been a legend in the locker room and a great ambassador for Michigan in the college football world. He is a true Michigan Man. Thanks for all the years and sacrifices you gave to our program.

John Wangler, Former U-M Quarterback (1977-80)

When Jon Falk retires after this Michigan football season, it will be an end of an era for so many student-athletes and friends that have known him. He is a storyteller extraordinaire that worked every day of his professional career doing his best to help Michigan win championships. Jon will always bleed Maize and Blue.

Bruce Madej, U-M Associate Athletic Director (1978-current)

Comments

olivia222

July 22nd, 2013 at 6:10 PM ^

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reshp1

July 22nd, 2013 at 1:30 PM ^

I think your block quote of Cathy Schembechler is actually Desmond's. Her statement is:

Jon is the last of the Bo era, forty years is a long time to be associated with something that you love. I know that Bo thought the world of Jon. They worked so well together and were best of friends. No one told a Bo story better than Jon. I'm happy for Jon and I know that Bo was always proud of Jon. Jon and I cried when he told me but I'm happy for Jon and his family ... he will be able to enjoy his retirement.

eth2

July 22nd, 2013 at 1:30 PM ^

So much has been written about Jon Falk over the years, all of it good, which in itself says a lot about the man and his importance to the Michigan football program. One of Bo's greatest legacies was his eye for hiring the right kind of people that would sustain the program's excellence long beyond his own years as head coach.

Had the pleasure of meeting Jon outside Memorial Stadium in Lincoln last year the day before the game. Clearly he was busy, but he took a few minutes out to chat with the group and pose with us for some photos in front of the big Michigan equipment truck. He could not have been more gracious.  /cool story bro

Wish him a long, healthy, and happy retirement.

 

Skapanza

July 22nd, 2013 at 4:25 PM ^

Jon Falk gave an excellent speech to the marching band in 2005(?) at one of our evening events. I recall that he told a great story about the Little Brown Jug and Bo, and a couple about particular players. I don't remember the specifics anymore, but I do remember being very impressed, and that I had enjoyed his talk as much as I had the year before, when none other than Bo himself had come to speak for us.

 

Congrats on a great career Jon, and here's hoping the Wolverines go out and win a ton of games to see you off.

Gitback

July 22nd, 2013 at 2:32 PM ^

"Goddamn it, let's go!!  It's black bag day!  This is a big goddamn game!  Notre Dame!  We're playing Notre Dame!  Assholes!  FUCK 'EM!!  Let's go!!  Black bags, lets GO!!!"

Willis Ward

July 22nd, 2013 at 2:36 PM ^

Bob Bland, turned down the Oregon job several years ago because he wanted to stay at Michigan. I'm hoping he gets the nod for his loyalty.

Jon will be missed but my guess is he will remain around the program for years to come. Jon has been as important to passing down the programs traditions to new players as anyone. We'll miss you, friend.

WolverineHistorian

July 22nd, 2013 at 3:04 PM ^

Sorry to see him go but even legends retire at some point.

I think Falk is the last remaining member of the Schembechler staff. Fred Jackson arrived a couple years after Bo's retirement.

Mr. Yost

July 22nd, 2013 at 3:12 PM ^

I'm happy for Jon...but kind of sad/emotional at this news. Big Jon IS Michigan Football. Everything we know and love about Michigan is Jon Falk.

Such a great man, a leader...and a legend (B1G pun intended). He's grandpa in the living room telling stories. He's that teacher we never want to disappoint. He's that person we play for when we're tired and beaten.

People say "Michigan Man" too damn much, Jon Falk is a Michigan Man. When someone asks to define it...you say "Yost," "Schembechler," "Ford," "Desmond," "Woodson," and many other names or adjectives...but don't ever forget to say "FALK."

Njia

July 22nd, 2013 at 3:15 PM ^

News just hit the wires that actor Dennis Farina, 69, passed away from a blod clot in Scottsdale, AZ. 

Between Jon Falk's retirement and Dennis Farina's passing, I'm going to take a moment to reflect on the randomless of life before returning to my usual pattern of ridiculing the Buckeyes.

Mr. Yost

July 22nd, 2013 at 4:49 PM ^

...he'd absolutely be on the list.

I'd sit him right across from Bo, invite 3 others, grab some stadium hot chocolate...sit down by a fire and let the stories roll.

John U. Bacon would get to sit quietly in the back writing everything down for me to read later. Drew Sharp would be serving refills of cocoa.

/endfantasy

cozy200

July 22nd, 2013 at 7:46 PM ^

Was lucky enough to shake his hand in Dallas last year as he waited shotgun in the equipment truck waiting to get back into the parking lot. Huge ring on his hand. Solid guy, really kind. A legend.

AlaskaBill

July 22nd, 2013 at 9:22 PM ^

You never realize how important somebody like Jon Falk is until they retire.

A real "Michigan Man" and the best equipment manager in the world.

Enjoy your retirement, big guy!

 

 

uncleFred

July 22nd, 2013 at 9:30 PM ^

There are no words that can thank you for your contribution to Michigan football. Congratulations on spending your life on what you love. You will be missed. Best of luck. 

victorsvaliant01

July 22nd, 2013 at 10:18 PM ^

I was one of Big Jonny's "young boys" (student equipment managers) from 2003-2005, and it was the best experience of my life, bar none. So much so, that even now at age 30, I still literally dream that I'm a part of the program: being around the guys all the time, singing The Victors in the locker room after a win, having the best seat in the house in Michigan Stadium on the sideline, polishing those beautiful helmets at 7am on game days, traveling to away games, my knees shaking so much the first time that I ran out of the tunnel and onto that perfect field that I could barely jump up high enough to touch the banner, and of course, a ton of free sweet Nike Michigan swag. (Adidas' crap blows in comparison, trust me.)

He is certainly like no other man I've ever met, or could hope so--and if you guys only truly had any idea what those walls would repeat if they could talk...holy hell, the profanity!

I could fill an entire page with the memories of my experiences "working" for Big Jon, but one just always stands out.

One evening during the week leading up to my first game ever running out of that tunnel, my Junior year against Central Michigan in 2003, I found myself alone with Jon in the newly revamped locker room at Michigan Stadium, working late after the others had gone. To alleviate the awkward silence between me and my intimidating new boss, I offered a "Big game on Saturday, eh Jon?" (This seemed a trivial offering, at best, at the time when I thought about how many games he'd presided over--against much better opponents, with much more on the line!)

But, his response, in his typical ubiquitous fashion, was, "Tony, they're ALL big!"

And to him, they truly were.

Lloyd's quoting of Jon about "one's best championship ring being his NEXT championship ring," couldn't be more of a microcosm of him, either--and even Tom Brady cited that quote of Jon's in his press conference after he won his third (!) Super Bowl in four years! I seriously think that Big Jonny showed that video 200 times that day.

And you know what? He was right--I have two Big Ten Championship rings in my drawer from the two seasons that I was lucky enough to be a part of our program, and "GODDAMNIT!!" do I still want another one!

Thanks, Big Jonny...and Go Blue ALWAYS!

BlueDragon

July 22nd, 2013 at 10:31 PM ^

Good luck Jon Falk. I will miss you roaming the sidelines in the fall and pulling the Little Brown Jug out of the equipment case at just the right moment.

May you live forever.

BannerToucher85

July 22nd, 2013 at 10:44 PM ^

I worked for Jon in the early 80's and it was an amazing experience. Every bit of respect that I have for Michigan the school and Michigan the football program I owe to Jon. Seeing Jon on the sidelines for the past 30 years has always been a highlight of every game for me. That future generations of players will miss out on Jon's tutelage in the ways of Michigan football is a trememdous loss for the program. I'll be saddened to see him go.

Reader71

July 23rd, 2013 at 12:36 PM ^

Everyone talks about his stories, and for good reason. My favorites had nothing to do with Michigan.

He told a few of us a story about meeting Marilyn Chambers. Let's just say it's not fit to publish! Funny guy. Filthy mouth.

He will he missed. I was devastated when they let Mike Gittleson go; this one hurts just as much.

Adam Schnepp

July 23rd, 2013 at 8:42 AM ^

One of my close friends worked for Big Jon while we were in undergrad. I indirectly owe some of my love for Michigan to Jon Falk. I saw the passion and loyalty that my friend had for the program and immediately sensed that Michigan was even more special than I originally thought it was; that passion came from Jon. I wish him the best in retirement and hope he stays close to the program (though I'm guessing that won't be an issue).