A history of tradition and excellence is what defines the University of Michigan football program. But this tradition of winning excellence could not be achieved without the aid of some great players.
So the question is....Who is the best?
With so many great to have passed through it is almost impossible to narrow it down, however, this is my attempt to declare the top 5 players in Michigan history.
Was the first three-time All-American at Michigan and two-time All-American basketball player. He was the first true verticle threat at wide receiver in NCAA history. He was part of the Bennie to Bennie connection which revolutionized football as they became the games first quarterback/ receiver tandem in the sports history.
His number is retired by the university
One of the greatest receivers in school history. His number is one of five retired by the university.
The trio of brothers that all were All-American tackles for the University of Michigan and all three were No. 11. The number has been retired by the university.
Aldolph "Germany" Schultz:
The first true linebacker in the history of football.
Memeber of College and NFL Football Hall of Fame.
Probably the greatest running back in school history Wheatley was a strong powerful runner with unbelieveable talent and big play ability.
There are many others that should be mentioned but there is not enough time to list them all and what they did so here is a brief list of other greats:
QB John Wangler
QB Rich Leach
QB Elvis Garbac
QB Jim Harbaugh
RB Tyrone Wheatley
RB Jamie Morris
RB Butch Wolfolk
RB Tim Biakabatuka
RB Anthony Thomas
RB Bump Elliot
RB Robert Chappius
RB Ron Johnson
RB Trip Welborne
RB Billy Taylor
WR Derrick Alexander
WR David Terrell
WR Braylon Edwards
WR Jack Clancy
WR Jim Mandich
WR Marquise Walker
OL Steve Hutchinson
OL Reggie McKenzie
OL John Runyan
OL Jake Long
OL Rob Renes
DE Lamarr Woodley
DT Mark Messner
DT Sam Sword
LB Jarrett Irons
LB Larry Foote
DB Ty Law
DB Marlin Jackson
DB Tom Curtis
DB Thom Darden
K Remy Hamilton
Now for the top 5...Enjoy!
Many will disagree with this, but Tom Brady has to be one of the greatest the University of Michigan has ever had.
A special talent out of San Mateo, California he was a born winner. While he spent his first two years under Brian Griese, he broke out his junior year and forever placed his name in the Michigan record books.
As a junior in 1998, Brady fought off mega-freshman Drew Henson for the starting role. Brady would then start every game in 1998 and 1999.
In his first year as a starter Brady broke the school records for pass attempts and completions in a single season. He capped the season off by leading the team to a share of the Big 10 title and a win over Arkansas in the Citrus Bowl.
In 1999, Brady in his senior year, took the Michigan football team to the Big 10 championship and the schools first BCS berth. In that bowl game Brady passed for 369 yards, single game school record, and 4 touchdown passes in an overtime win over SEC champion Alabama.
He finished his career with a 20-5 record and a 2-0 bowl record, including the schools only BCS victory. He also broke his single season completions record his senior year. Brady ranked third in school history in completions, until Henne arrived.
If that doesn't qualify for greatness then I don't know what does.
I could bring up his pro resume, but we all know how that one is going...Hall of Famer anyone?
Desmond Howard, the electrifying wide receiver out of Cleveland, Ohio. Howard was a special player. In his time at Michigan he was the creator of many great memories for Michigan fans everywhere
The memories of the catch versus Notre Dame in 1991 and of course "The Pose" versus Ohio State later in the year, will forever be immortalized in Michigan folklore for as long as we live on this earth.
In his time at Michigan Howard became the schools second Heisman winner, winning by 85%, the largest margin of victory at the time. He also set or tied five NCAA records and eighteen school records. He was the first wide receiver to lead the Big 10 in scoring.
Howards record breaking '91 seaon wasn't only capped with a Heisman, but he was also awarded the Maxwell and Walter Camp award along with First Team All-American selection.
His outstanding playmaking ability, along with his record setting career places Howard as the number four player in Michigan history.
A Riviera Beach, Florida native Carter is best known as the original #1. It was Bo Schembechler that recruited Carter out of Florida by promising him the fabled jersey, and then became the tradition.
Carter's career was filled with game changing plays and electrifying performances which is why many consider him one of the best, if not the best, in school history.
What may have made Carter so great was not the fact that he made all these great plays, but because he made these plays with his extremely small size...all 5-11 and 160 lbs of him.
While at Michigan, Anthony Carter or AC, became the schools second 3-time All-American. As a sophmore he became the first second-year player to win the team MVP. Also finished fourth in Heisman voting his senior year.
He set numerous school records during his time and those were:
Receiving yards- 3,076
Receiving touchdowns- 37
Punt returns- 79
Punt return yards- 907
Kick returns- 63
Kick return yardage-1,606
All these records have all been broken since AC's time at Michigan though. However, one record still stands, and that is his 17.4 yards per play which is an NCAA record.
What makes his numbers all the more impressive, is that he did it in an offense that was built on a powerful ground attack. That's is what makes AC special. Never will a talent like AC ever be seen again.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
The phenom that did it all it seemed. The young three way player from Freemont, Ohio became an immortalized legend at Michigan in his three years at the school.
As a junior Woodson became the schools third Heisman winner, but he wasn't an ordinary Heisman winner, he was the first and only defensive player to win the Heisman in NCAA history.
His playmaking ability was of a rare calibur as he made dazzling interceptions, such as the one versus Michigan State in '97,or his interception versus Washington State in the '98 Rose Bowl in which his hang time was out of this world.
His playmaking abilities went beyond just clutch interceptions, but he flashed his skills on offense too, as well as in special teams play. It was his huge 37-yard reception in the '97 Ohio State game that set up the games first score. It was also his punt return touchdown and endzone interception that sealed the game and his Heisman hopes.
He led a team that wasn't even expected to win conference to its first national title since 1948. His leadership was his greatest assest and mix that with his playmaking and you have a legend in the making. A three way player in the modern era is rare, a three way player in the modern era with this level of talent is even rarer.
Like most greats Woodson started early. As a freshman Woodson had two interceptions in a victory over No. 2 Ohio State.
As a sophmore Woodson set single season school record for pass breakups in one year(15). He also was voted Big 10 First Team and AP First Team All-American, while he was also a Jim Thorpe finalist.
By the end of his junior year Woodson was a Heisman, Bronko Nagurski, Jim Thorpe, Walter Camp, and Chuck Bednarik Trophy award winner. That along with his second First Team All-American election. All these trophies made Woodson the most decorated in school history.
His 18 career interceptions also rank second in school history.
Woodson was ranked as the 11th greatest player in NCAA history according to ESPN's Top 25 Greatest Players in College Football history that was announced leading up to the'06 Rose Bowl.
Ole' 98 is the legend of legends. Tom Harmon was Michigan's first Heisman winner, and was also Michigan's first true superstar.
This man truely did it all either it be passing, running, receiving, kicking, or punting. Whatever it was he could do it.
The programs listed Harmon as a running back, which he was, but he was often playing various other positions. In his career Harmon played all 60 minutes eight times.
As a player Harmon finished his career with 2,134 yards rushing and 1,304 yards passing on 100 completions for 16 touchdowns. He scored 237 career points in three years. He was also an excellent punter by standards back then and today.
In his final game at Michigan, Harmon accomplished something no one has ever done, including Buckeyes... That is to leave the Shoe to a standing ovation. After single handidly beating the Bucks by virtue of three rush touchdowns, two pass touchdowns, kicking four extra points, intercepting three passes, and punting three times for an average of 50 yards the onlooking crowd could do nothing more than show their respect to the greatest performance in the rivalries history.
Harmon wrapped up his final year in Ann Arbor by winning the schools first Heisman Trophy and by winning the Maxwell Award.
It was what Harmon did after leaving Michigan that may make him the greatest Wolverine of them all.
After the 1940 season Harmon was drafted #1 overall by the Chicago Bears but passed on his NFL chance to enter the Army. As a WWII bomber pilot Harmon received the Purple Heart after his plane was shot down in combat. Harmon survived the crash and walked to safety.
Also, like Woodson, Harmon was place on ESPN's Top 25 Greatest Players in College Football History. Harmon was ranked 16th.
Argue if you want but Tom Harmon is the greatest player in Michigan history. His greatness transcended beyond football but into the world as well. His WWII heroics along with his football play have represented the great name of The University of michigan better than anyone else.
Since he left Michigan his ole' 98 has been retired by the university making it one of five to have been retired.