Friday, August 29, 2008

Know Your Honorary Captains

Rich Rodriguez will be bringing with him his practice of making football alumni honorary captains for every game. His first group at Michigan will include three men who, between them, have four All-America selections, a retired jersey, a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame, two in the College Football Hall of Fame, two NFL titles, and a citation by Lil' Wayne.

Dan Dierdorf

Dierdorf is almost certainly the most familiar of the three to Michigan fans. A 1970 All-American, Dierdorf was a freshman during Bump Elliott's last season as head coach. As freshmen were ineligible to play at the time, Dierdorf's first season on the field coincided with Bo's first on the sidelines. After being selected by St. Louis in the second round of the 1971 NFL draft, Dierdorf went on to play 13 seasons with the Cardinals, most of it spent at right tackle. A six-time All-Pro, Dierdorf became a member of the NFL Hall of Fame in 1996 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000. Immediately after his retirement from the NFL, Dierdorf began calling games, spending 12 seasons on ABC and 11 at CBS in two different stints. In 2008, Dierdorf has recently received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, recognizing "long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football." Dierdorf is also referenced by Lil' Wayne in the remix of "Chain Hang Low" (viz.: "my diamonds big like Dan Dierdorf").

Ron Kramer

Ron Kramer is one of the most exceptional athletes ever to play for Michigan. Like Dierdorf, he played in a time when freshmen were ineligible, yet he's a nine-time letterman in track & field, football, and basketball. All three years he was named MCP of the basketball team, and at least once he left spring football practice to win the high jump with a leap of 6'4". Not bad for a 6'3" guy who weighed 230. Kramer was constantly on the football field, playing "offensive and defensive end, running back, quarterback, kicker, and receiver, often all in the same game," according to the Bentley Historical Library. His career punting average was 43 yards, and he kicked 43 extra points and a pair of field goals. As an end, he caught 53 passes for 880 yards, but Bennie Oosterbaan prized his blocking and tackling most of all. An All-American in 1955 and 1956, Kramer's number 87 was retired after his senior year.

Following his Michigan career, Kramer went on to play for Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers as a tight end for seven seasons, interrupted by a year in the Air Force in 1958, and three with the Lions. Kramer won NFL titles with the Packers in '61 and '62.

In SI's "50 Greatest Sports Figures From Michigan" in 1999, Kramer was ranked #7 (behind such luminaries as Joe Louis, Magic Johnson, Charlie Gehringer, Bennie Oosterbaan, Hal Newhouser, and Dave DeBusschere). Today, Kramer is known to players and band members as the man who supplies them all with apples.

Bob Chappuis

Chappuis (often misspelled as "Chappius", as that's how he pronounces it) began his Michigan career with the 1942 football season, appearing in nine games as a halfback, before wartime service interrupted his career. As a member of the US Army Air Force, Chappuis served as a radio operator/aerial gunner on B-25 Mitchell bombers flying in the European theater. On his 21st mission, Chappuis's B-25 was knocked out by flak on a bombing run against a train tunnel north of the Po River in Italy. After kicking the stuck tailgunner free, Chappuis parachuted into enemy territory. Italian partisans managed to collect Chappuis and two of his crewmates before the Germans. For three months, the Americans were shuttled between houses and villages, winding up in Mantua when the war ended.

After his discharge from the military, Chappuis returned to campus in 1946, joined the baseball team as an outfielder, and led them in batting on their way to a 26-game winning streak and a Big Nine title. On the gridiron, he proceeded to break Otto Graham's Big Nine record for total offensive yards while playing with a broken wrist the whole season (in which he threw for 734 yards and rushed for 501). In the 1947 season, coming off surgery to repair the wrist, he broke his own mark with 976 yards through the air and 544 on the ground as one of Fritz Crisler's "Mad Magicians". Against Ohio State, Chappuis set a single-game school record for offensive output with 217 passing yards and 90 rushing, routing the Buckeyes 21-0. The 1947 Wolverines were the first to employ Crisler's innovative strategy of fielding separate offensive and defensive units, and Chappuis landed on the cover of Time as "The Specialist", due to his status as a prolific passer for the era. He finished his career at Michigan by being named Rose Bowl MVP in a 49-0 stomping of USC. It was such a resounding thumping that the AP called an unprecedented post-bowl poll to reassess which team was better, undefeated Michigan or undefeated Notre Dame. Michigan won the final poll by almost a 2:1 margin, but both schools claim the title.

Sources: Wikipedia, Bentley Historical Library


Craig Barker said...

Strangely, did you notice that it was Reggie McKenzie filling in for Mr. Dierdorf yesterday? Do we know what happened there?

Geoff said...

Yeah, I noticed it and wondered when that changed. The Detroit News notes that Dierdorf had been slated for the role, but had a scheduling conflict and thus was replaced by Reggie. No word on who it'll be for Miami, but I'll post blurbs on whoever is selected.

Geoff said...