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Michigan Football: Gerald Ford's Legendary No. 48 Getting Un-Retired

Former President Gerald Ford played center for the University of Michigan Wolverines. This photo was shot in 1934. (Photo by Michigan University/Getty Images)
Michigan University/Getty Images
Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterJanuary 13, 2017

In the pantheon of Michigan Wolverine football greats—and it is a very, very large pantheon—perhaps no former player is more venerated than Gerald Ford, a three-time letterwinner at center, Michigan's MVP in 1934 and, y'know, the 34th President of the United States of America.

Ford's No. 48 jersey was retired by Michigan for rather obvious reasons, and it hasn't been worn by a Michigan player in 20 years. According to AnnArbor.com, though, Brady Hoke says the 48 is coming back to the sidelines.

Michigan football coach Brady Hoke told Jox 94.5 FM in Birmingham, Ala. on Tuesday that the Wolverines have plans to honor former President Gerald Ford's No. 48 next season.

"We're honoring Desmond Howard now every year with one of our players (senior receiver Roy Roundtree) who really deserves it," Hoke told the station. "We're going to do the same with Gerald Ford's jersey here this year."

Howard was named the first "Michigan Football Legend" by the program last season, and Roundtree will take Howard's No. 21 jersey this year; presumably, Ford will also be named a Michigan Football Legend soon.

This idea is cool, but it probably won't please everyone, especially at a tradition-heavy school like Michigan. For one, it serves a pretty decent utilitarian purpose by bringing numbers back into the mix—very helpful when a program has 85 scholarship players, dozens of walk-ons and a maximum of 100 numbers to choose from.

Past that, it's a far more active tribute to these Michigan legends than just taking their numbers out of circulation; in the Michigan Football Legends program, the celebrated jersey numbers will have a patch to commemorate the former wearer, and the numbers will be granted to select high-profile players rather than handed out to random freshmen.

Think the No. 1 jersey program, but more robust.

There's no shortage of players who would be a good fit for the first No. 48 jersey, but speaking more generally, there's one position that would be head-and-shoulders above any other in terms of entertainment value in wearing a No. 48 jersey.

Quarterback.

Now, we're not saying Denard Robinson should take Ford's jersey, nor even Devin Gardner or Russell Bellomy down the road. But at some point, Michigan owes it to the gods of absurdity to have a No. 48 under center and dropping back to pass.

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