All You Need to Know About Michigan Football
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Those are the bread-and-butter qualities of Michigan Wolverines football, the qualities that draw college gridiron fans from every corner of the world to the Maize and Blue.
Regardless of geographic or school affiliation, you can bet that there are avid Wolverines fans in every city and town known to man.
That's what comes with being college football's winningest program.
From great athletes like Charles Woodson, Tom Brady and Ron Kramer, to legendary coaches like Bo Schembechler, the proud tradition of Wolverines football is enough to make the most ardent Ohio State and Michigan State fans take notice.
Whether you're new to Wolverines football, or an old-school fan who knows everything about the program, this handy FYI guide will entertain and educate you about one of college football's greatest teams.
Ron Kramer... Enough Said
Photo: Adam Biggers (2010) An oil painting of one of Michigan's career greats, Ron Kramer
A couple years back while writing for The Flint Journal, I met a man named Steve Kroflich, an Ohio State graduate and best friend of the late, great Ron Kramer.
Kramer, who died Sept. 11, 2010 of heart complications, epitomized Michigan football in the late 1950s. Arguably the greatest athlete to ever play at Michigan, Kramer excelled at basketball and lettered in three sports.
He was drafted with the fourth pick of the 1957 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, but he could have played in the NBA; he was just that athletically-gifted.
While researching Kramer's legacy, I met with members of his former golf club in Tyrone, Twp., Mich. Not one man immediately brought up Kramer's exploits on the field. No, they were too busy telling stories of his generosity and caring nature.
The life of the crowd, the man everyone wanted to talk to and share a brew with -- that was Kramer. But he didn't always rub people the right way at first glance.
That was Kramer, though.
“When I first met him, I wanted to fight him,” Kroflich told me in 2010. “We weren’t friends, OK? We were family. I had keys to his house and car, he had keys to mine. We didn’t knock, we just walked in. Whatever he had, I was welcome to. It went both ways. It had nothing to do with athletics.”
Why did Kroflich want to fight Kramer? Well, a chance meeting at Kroflich's mailbox on a dirt road outside of Fenton, Mich. turned into a somewhat awkward but life-changing exchange. The two were inseparable after that.
And Kramer had a certain talent of getting under Kroflich's skin, a back-and-forth, Buckeyes-Wolverines flag-swapping fiasco that went on each football season.
My appreciation for Kramer grew after learning about his role as the "Apple Man" at Michigan. The former Wolverines star delivered fresh fruit to practice because he loved his team. He bled Maize and Blue, and seeing the youngsters achieve their goals gave him an immense sense of pride.
Kramer is a man that I wish I could have met. Kroflich, a proud Buckeyes alum, was kind enough to invite me into his home and even introduced me to his wife prior to our initial interview. He later invited me back for a second feature and gave me a card signed by Kramer.
I got a real sense of just how close Kramer and Kroflich were. Their relationship was less about sports and more about sharing a brotherly bond.
I highly encourage you to read my two Journal features on Kramer. You might find out something about the legend that you didn't know.
MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner wrote a wonderful story on Brandon Moore and the importance of the No. 87
Bo Schembechler was the "Michigan Man."
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Did you know that Bo Schembechler got his start in coaching under former Ohio State Buckeyes legend Woody Hayes?
It's only fitting that Schembechler and Hayes had such an intense rivalry, one that solidified Michigan versus Ohio State football as one of the premier college duels in any sport.
Schembechler coached the Wolverines from 1969-89, winning 13 Big Ten titles and six Big Ten Coach of the Year Awards.
However, he never won a national title. Strange, isn't it? Considering the talent that Schembechler had, his lack of a national championship is one of the most baffling facts in sports.
Schembechler posted a 234-65-8 record during his coaching career -- but he won 194 of those games as head man of the Wolverines. Beating Ohio State was the objective, and Schembechler did so in 11 of 20 games played (11-9-1). He held a 5-4-1 advantage over Hayes, too.
Some feel that second-year Wolverines coach Brady Hoke shares similar qualities with Schembechler, who died in 2006.
The term "Michigan Man" should have been trademarked by Schembechler, who set the bar for every Michigan coach. Greats like Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr often pointed to Schembechler as not only the greatest Wolverines front man, but one of the greatest ambassadors of the game.
Now that's respect.
What is Michigan football? It's about pride, honor and winning. Michigan won before Schembechler, and it'll win in years to come. But make no mistake, the 20 years that Schembechler was in charge were arguably the greatest in Wolverines history.
Charles Woodson, 1997 National Title Team
Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson
Charles Woodson was incredible at Michigan. So incredible that he won the 1997 Heisman Trophy and helped guide the Wolverines to a national championship.
Not bad for a cornerback.
Woodson, along with Andre Weathers, anchored one of the best secondaries that Michigan has ever had. Now an NFL veteran, Woodson can often be heard speaking proudly about his Wolverines, although it's been about 15 years since he's suited up for them.
Woodson earned practically every award imaginable while in college, and he continued doing so during his illustrious, Hall of Fame-caliber NFL career with the Green Bay Packers.
While there were other legends to play for Michigan during the past 30 years or so, like Desmond Howard and Tom Brady, Rick Leach and Tim Biakabutuka, Woodson is the favorite of many.
Want more Michigan Dream Teamers? Check out Bleacher Report contributor Billy George's list of who's who in Michigan football.
Michigan just wins
Eleven national titles, 42 conference championships and 20 bowl wins speak volumes. Michigan has had 78 All-American players, three Heisman winners and enough talent to field a Hall of Fame NFL team.
Pedigree. That's all that needs to be said.
Charismatic Players Like Desmond Howard and Denard Robinson Make UM Great
Desmond Howard doesn't strike a pose; he strikes the pose
Desmond Howard pulled off the greatest move in college football history.
His 93-yard punt return for touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1991 was awe-inspiring, one of the best returns I've ever seen -- but it didn't compare to what he did once he hit pay dirt.
Yes, he had the confidence—or audacity, as some have said—to strike the Heisman pose—you know, the stiff-armed move—once he put six points on the board.
Can't say he didn't give fair warning, because Howard indeed claimed college football's top individual hardware that year.
What about Denard Robinson, the most exciting Wolverines football player since Howard?
I had the opportunity to speak with Robinson during 2011 Michigan Media Day, and he was a fantastic guy to interview. Humble, kind and incredibly charismatic, Robinson is really one of the good guys in college sports.
No cocky attitude, nothing like that. Just a regular guy, and that's growing increasingly more important these days.
I shot this video at the media gala in 2011. I would have asked different questions on camera, but I did talk a little football with the one called "Shoelace."
Every team should have a guy like Robinson. But it's impossible; he's a once-a-decade type of player. Maybe even once-ever-two-decades.
Some random player
Oh, and there was this guy named Tom Brady who quarterbacked the Wolverines offense in the late 1990s, starting under-center in 1998 and 1999. He was a great college signal-caller drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.
No expectations being a sixth-rounder, right? Well, he kind of exceeded what most thought he'd be capable of after taking over the New England Patriots offense from Drew Bledsoe.
Brady went on to have an average NFL career. I mean, what sixth-rounder doesn't win three Super Bowls, two MVP awards and seven Pro Bowl nods.
He's OK. Not great, or even "terrific." Just average.
The Big House Is a Temple of Football Greatness
Take a virtual tour of 'The Big House'
Michigan Stadium, known as "The Big House," is the be-all of college football stadiums. It's one of the largest stadiums in the world, seating approximately 110,000 or so Wolverines fans each Saturday—that's including the addition of luxury suites and club seating.
Michigan has had at least 100,000 for every home game since 1975.
Want more on the history of college football's mecca? Check out the run-down, courtesy of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library.
Memorable Coaches Like Oosterbaan, Crisler
Brady Hoke speaks of Michigan coaching tradition
When Brady Hoke took the Michigan job in 2011, he spoke of the tradition and meaning of coaching the Wolverines football team.
While Bo Schembechler is commonly referred to as the greatest Michigan coach, there have been others that paved the way for the Wolverines.
Yost won six national titles—yes, six—in addition to 165 games, the second-most behind Schembechler's 194.
Yost won over 80 percent of conference games and claimed 10 conference championships.
Kipke won two national titles and four league banners. Despite just 46 wins, Kipke is also known as one of Michigan's greats. Quality trumps quantity in this case.
Crisler won two conference titles, a national title and 71 games.
Oosterbaan won 63 games while at Michigan, a national title and three conference titles.
A disciple of Schembechler, Carr won a national title in 1997, 122 games as the Wolverines' coach and five Big Ten titles.
View the complete coaching records here.
John U. Bacon Is an Excellent Source of Wolverines History
John U. Bacon knows Michigan in and out, from Denard to Oosterbaan
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There are sports writers.
Then there are guys like author John U. Bacon, a Michigan historian and excellent story teller.
Pay attention, young writers: If you want to go somewhere in this business, follow Bacon's lead. He's a respected name in the game, a man who's not afraid to write about controversial subjects—but yet, he remains beloved by the Michigan fanbase.
Bacon straddles the line of fan and observer better than most. His book Three and Out touches on the Rich Rodriguez era, one that most Wolverines fans would like to forget.
OK. Every Wolverines fan wants to forget that three-year span of disappointment, underachievement and problems.
Visit Bacon's site. He's the go-to guy for all things historical pertaining to the Maize and Blue.
Rivals: Ohio State, Ohio State and Ohio State
Michigan won the 'Snow Bowl,' 9-3 over Ohio State in 1950.
Games like 1950's Ohio State-Michigan "Snow Bowl" just aren't played these days.
It was classic football; no facemasks, not much padding, and a whole lot of hard-hitting action.
You know, the way the game was meant to be played.
Michigan leads the series 58-43-6, with its last win coming in 2011, 40-34. Prior to that win, the Wolverines lost each game from 2004-2011—the loss in 2011 was vacated by Ohio State as part of self-imposed sanctions.
There is no game more important to either school than the one played against one another. Ohio State and Michigan are two of the oldest programs, established in 1890 and 1879, respectively.
None. Zero. Zilch.
There is an important in-state rivalry for the Wolverines, one that hasn't gone their way the past four years—the rivalry against Michigan State, which hasn't lost to Michigan since 2007.
Michigan's fortunes could change this season, though. The Spartans look like they'll struggle this season, while Michigan looks to have just enough offense to beat them. For the first time in years, this game will be down-to-the-wire competitive.
The Wolverines could bump up their series record to 68-32-5 with a victory Oct. 20 at Michigan Stadium.
Notre Dame, where art thou, Irish?
The rivalry between Michigan and Notre Dame isn't as full of tradition as the duels with Ohio State and Michigan State, but it's one of the best in college football.
But it was cancelled.
Michigan lost 13-6 this season after stringing three consecutive wins over the Irish. Michigan leads the series 23-16-1.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.