MGoHall of Fame: Football Nominees

Submitted by Brian on May 15th, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Good lord, this was brutal. Hockey had a pretty clear cutoff that sat nicely at five, and getting to five in basketball was a stretch. I left Steve Breaston, Leon Hall, Allan Branch, and Zoltan Mesko out here. Jebus.

See also: structure, basketball, hockey.

David Molk


via MVictors

PROS: Tough-talking no-neck was a four year starter at center perfectly suited for Michigan's zone running game; won the Rimington as a senior. Hilarious interview with absolutely no regard for cliché. High fantangibles rating. At times seemed to be the difference between doom and success in the Michigan ground game. Broke something serious in his foot in the Sugar Bowl, watched Rocko Khoury make some panic snaps on Michigan's first series, and played the rest of the game seriously damaged.

Experienced both coaching changes and was one of the seniors Who Stayed™. A huge factor in the locker room uniting behind Hoke.

CONS: Had some injury problems. Inexplicably had his snap count jumped against MSU and only MSU for like three straight years.

Mike Martin


PROS: Four-year contributor and three-year starter who always teetered on the edge of being great. Finally accelerated down the senior-year stretch into a dominant nose tackle. During this period forced a pitch on a Nebraska speed option.

This is about all you need to know. You could not block him. Michigan's insanely good third/fourth and short defense started with him (and ended with Kovacs).

But wait, there's more: with Michigan's already-thin defensive line depth shattered by injury before the Sugar Bowl, Martin and Van Bergen faced off with future first-round pick David Wilson in a game where getting a stop meant you got four snaps before you were back on the field. They singlehandedly kept Michigan in the game despite dying halfway through the second quarter. A performance that should pass into legend the same way Hunwick's North Dakota game will.

Also a member of Those Who Stayed™. Along with Molk and Van Bergen, Martin got the Full Andy Dufresne from his time at Michigan.

CONS: Seemingly endorses "In The Big House." Not as highly regarded by the NFL as a few other guys on this list.

Ryan Van Bergen



PROS: Third and final member of Those Who Stayed™ on the list. Also a four-year contributor and longtime starter, underrated because of his lack of playmaking but still the TFL leader on last year's team. The other guy holding Michigan's defensive line together through sheer force of will in the Sugar Bowl. Virtually impossible to knock down. Screwed up a check in the 2009 Indiana game, leading to an 85-yard touchdown, then singlehandedly annihilated the next IU drive, giving Michigan a chance to pull it out.

CONS: Probably the least-great player on this list. Here as a tribute to Michigan's phoenix act in 2011. Not enticing to NFL. Still… look at that. This is not a list of the best players ever, so…

Brandon Graham

PROS: The best player on an awful Michigan defense and awful Michigan teams. Did not get the Full Andy Dufresne since his career ended halfway through the sewage tube. Still bore all of this with a Denard-like beatific smile. Just killed people, all the time.

NFL did really like him, drafting him in the top half of the first round.

CONS: Unfortunately his impact was limited because the team around him was terrible.

David Harris

PROS: Sideline-to-sideline missile was cerebral to the point of near-genius. Always there. Always. Made a habit out of juking(!) offensive linemen in zone schemes, making them think the play was going one way, then exploding into the ballcarrier when this was not the case. Junior year was tremendously underrated thanks to chaos around him; was major lynchpin and possibly the best player on Michigan's monster 2006 defense. Yes, I mean that seriously.

Early and still prime example of the usefulness of UFRing makes him near to my heart; not sure if you care. Validated all praise from Michigan fans by instantly becoming NFL tackling machine upon entry to the league.

Kind of looks like Worf.

CONS: Lacks iconic wow play. Others started longer than he did.

Mario Manningham

PROS: Emphatically does not have David Harris's problem since he was the target on two of the most iconic plays of the aughts: Oh, Wide Open and Lloyd Carr's Last Second. An electric playmaker the rest of the time, a guy who wasn't the biggest but was the fastest and hardest to keep track of. Had that brilliant slow-up-to-stall-the-DB-then-extend-for-the-TD move down pat. More of a technician than given credit for. Whenever I think of Manningham, I think of that Citrus Bowl when DeBord said "screw it, spread time" and Holly Rowe reporting that Florida deathbacker Brandon Spikes was chasing Manningham all over the field on his incessant end-arounds, saying "damn, boy, you good."

Did the worm after the 2007 Penn State win.

CONS: Got suspended for the weed, something that took some doing in the mid-aughts. Widely regarded as kind of maybe not the nicest guy to ever make it through the program.

Jason Avant

PROS: Amongst the nicest guys to ever make it through the program. Skillet-sized hands are made of industrial-strength adhesive. An elite-level possession receiver who was everyone's safety blanket. Targeted all the time and made all the catches. Probably the most common ex-player to be referenced in "You May Remember Me From Such Players As," to the point where I actively try to avoid it now.

Did this:

That about sums it up.

CONS: Did drop that one pass once, you know, that one. Never a huge deep threat.

Mike Hart

PROS: Four year starter with great backstory and running style burned into your brain. No speed at all but capable of juking in a phone booth and grinding out two, three, four yards after contact. Got a standing ovation for a particular eight yard run against Penn State once. Came out of a tiny school in upstate New York with outlandish rushing stats and a youtube clip in which he jukes every player on the opposing team twice.

Never, ever fumbled except twice inside the five against Florida in his last game. Pretty much the only thing standing between Michigan and a yards per carry under three during his time at Michigan.

Mouthy in a rivalry-pumping way. Fantangibles high. Added spice to life. I have already written his column. There is a "Mike Hart is pined for" tag on this blog.

CONS: Injury prone. Started this incredibly annoying "little brother" business. Spice added by mouth often backfired; went 0-fer against OSU.

Lamarr Woodley


PROS: Kills people. Brandon Graham was Woodley 2.0, a devastating defensive end who could not be blocked one-on-one. Has enormous Wolverine tattoo on arm. Finished off the Oh Wide Open game with the Yakety-sax-capping scoop and score. Fighting with David Harris and Allan Branch for title of best player on 2006 defense.

CONS: OSU 0-fer does not quite apply but really kind of does since he did not contribute much in 2003. That's about it. Kind of think maybe Graham was better since he had way less help and still produced.

Jake Long


PROS: Is he a man or a block-long wall? Only his mother knows, and these days she's not even sure. Four-year starter who rolled off the NFL left tackle prototype line and let exactly zero guys not roid-raging get to the quarterback when he was on the field. The first overall pick his draft year, all-American everywhere, etc, etc, etc, you get the idea.

CONS: Fantangibles low. Another Michigan great who had to suffer through the indignity of 0-fer OSU. Hurt most of the 2005 season. Not sure what I'd write about him.



May 15th, 2012 at 3:24 PM ^

It is true that RVB doesn't have the same big play ability and is not nearly as visible as a player but he still deserves to be on this list.  I mean Mattison trusted RVB enough his senior year to let him call stunts on the line and what is more is that Mike Martin respected his oppinion enough to listen and go along with it.  You cannot underestimate how big of an impact that kind or leadership and football intelligence has on the line.


May 15th, 2012 at 4:11 PM ^

Is not only behind the other 2011 seniors, but Breaston, Hall, Branch and Mesko as guys who just missed the list?!?!?  That had to just be a mistake.  Henne should be in the 5, minimum.

But man, this is going to be a hard is that going to work? If everyone gets 100% of the vote, how do you get it down to 3?


May 15th, 2012 at 2:51 PM ^

Hmmm...calling this brutal is an understatement.  If basketball had the problem of too few great candidates, it's no suprise football has the opposite considering the number of guys on the team(this also explains why hockey was just right).  
My top 3:

1. Brandon Graham-It's still going to be tough to top him as my favorite Michigan player ever. He might not have come to Michigan knowing what was going to happen, but he stayed his senior year when he didn't have to and he played his heart out. 

2. Lamarr Woodly- Guns don't kill people..etc, etc. That 2006 defense was the most fun I'd ever had watching football until Team 132's squad. May rank slightly below BG because I agree that BG was slightly better. 

3. Mike Hart-It feels criminal to not put a Team 132 guy in this slot, but I can't not put in Hart. I know some people didn't like his trash talk and he didn't beat OSU, but the latter was never really his fault.. You forget just how good he was until you go back and watch a highlight tape. 


May 15th, 2012 at 2:52 PM ^

Yikes, limiting this list is impossible I think.  Football inherently is going to have more impactful guys across the board.  It's tough to leave off some guys off of this.  I'm not sure how to get around it.


May 15th, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

Since this is the first round, you want five total inductees, and I only see one each from hockey and basketball. I pick three football guys and they are:

Molk, Woodley, and Graham.

"The Theory of Rich Rod's Spread Offense in Full Bloom" narrowly misses out.

For the rest of the guys, it gets tough because Denard and Kovacs are shoo-ins for the class of 2013.


May 16th, 2012 at 12:50 AM ^

I was wondering this myself. 

The rules for eligibility are: "Anyone whose career finished up in 2005 or later..."  which I think should include Braylon.  He was in the class of '05, was drafted in '05 and played his final game for Michigan in '05 (in the Rose bowl where he caught 3TDs). 


May 15th, 2012 at 2:57 PM ^

I could watch the Brandon Graham highlights on repeat for the next year.  Him, Long, and Woodley, David Harris probably top my list, even though it's impossible to figure out.  As you can tell by me adding Harris in there at the end. 


May 15th, 2012 at 2:59 PM ^

1) Brandon Graham- In the top three of my favorite Michigan players ever, with Woodson and Denard.

2) Hart

3) Martin


Good lord this is hard. 


May 15th, 2012 at 3:02 PM ^

Mike Hart was the only thing standing between the 2007 team and it becoming the 2008 team.  When asked if he regretted coming back to M, he said, "No way. This is my team. When we're losing, it's my team, and when we start winning again, it will be my team." 

No hyperbole, Hart is the greatest all-around Wolverine - talent, production, leadership, fantangables - since Charles Woodson.  He's the all-time leading rusher and he doesn't make the top 3?  No way.  All others on this list are deserving, and will eventually make it in all likelihood, but Mike Hart earned inclusion in the inagural class.


May 16th, 2012 at 9:49 AM ^

Mike Hart started the "little brother" garbage, which should eliminate him from consideration. However, I'll give you these guys who were better representatives of the program, and plain better players at their position, than Mike Hart since Charles Woodson left the program:

Brandon Graham, Zoltan Mesko, David Molk, Mike Martin, Denard Robinson, Jordan Kovacs, Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Thomas, David Terrell, John Navarre, Chris Perry, Aaron Shea, Lamarr Woodley, Jake Long, David Baas, Chad Henne, Leon Hall, David Harris, Larry Foote, Victor Hobson, Rob Renes.

I probably left 10 on the shelf, but my point is made. Woodson might be the best player Michigan ever had, but Hart isn't even a top 5 all time running back at Michigan (those would be Wheatley, A-Thomas, Woolfolk, Lytle, and Biakubutuka). He's not even the best midget running back ever at Michigan because Jamie Morris was better.

Most importantly, you'll notice all those players I listed above either beat Ohio, or won the Rose Bowl, or did both. Sorry - you can't be the best at Michigan unless you've done one, or both, of those things.

Blue Durham

May 16th, 2012 at 10:12 AM ^

5 all-time backs in Michigan history (my list might be a little different than yours), but Michigan was a totally different team (in a bad way) when he was not able to play.  With as good as line as we supposedly had, Hart constantly avoided tackles for losses, something the other backs you listed didn't have to contend with.  And Robb

The attitude that you can't be the best at Michigan unless you've beaten OSU or won the Rose Bowl is patently absurd.  Jake Long was in the same class as Mike Hart, so he has the same record as Hart (can't really include 2003 win against OSU when Long was red-shirted).  From his performance at Michigan and as on of the few #1 pick Michigan ever had in the NFL draft, an argument could easily be made for Long to be the best tackle Michigan has ever had. 

In football, a single player can at most constitute 1/22nd of the starters.  Other than QB, which has a disportionate influence on the outcome of a game, I really don't think you can affix team accomplisments or failures to that of individual performances.


May 15th, 2012 at 4:05 PM ^

You didnt ask me, but I will bite

Since Woodson left, in no particular order: Renes, ATrain, Edwards, Harris, Woodley, Long, Graham, Molk, Martin and Denard just off the top of my head were better all around football players than Hart.

I dont even think he's in my top-5 all time MICH tailbacks, although I realize thats not the question, nor the timeframe we're speaking about.

I think Hart's been overrated a bit, for one reason or another, by the blogging community since most of them attended school during his years