Only 4 of our U. S. Presidents have played college football and one of them put on the prestigious Maize and Blue uniform. Gerald Ford chose to play his college football at the University of Michigan and he is the topic of this weeks Throwback Thursday!
Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan with his mother and step father. He attended Grand Rapids South High School where he would start his football career. He played center and linebacker and would quickly draw attention from recruiters. Ford was a tremendous athlete, who worked hard and would be named captain of his team. He was selected to the 1930 All-City team of the Grand Rapids City League.
After graduating Ford attended the University of Michigan and played football for the Wolverines. He played the center position as well as linebacker and was a major contributor. He helped lead his Wolverines to back to back undefeated teams and become national champions in 1932 and 1933. The next season would be a different story, only winning one game. One game Ford has credited in helping with his political career was against that year’s champions, the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
They went into halftime a scoreless tie with a team that was favored highly over the Wolverines. According to one of the assistant coaches, Ford was all over the field and never gave up. He said “Jerry was one guy who would stay and fight in a losing cause.” Ford was named the teams Most Valuable Player in 1934 and also selected to play in the 1935 East-West All Star game after that rough season.
When his Michigan football career was over he was offered a contract from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. He declined both and became an assistant coach at Yale University, where he would later attend law school. He then began a long political career, holding multiple positions.
After President Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States of America. This Michigan man would lead our great nation from 1974 to 1977. As President he mentioned that game vs Minnesota in 1934, stating how it helped him face tough situations, take action, and continue to make every effort despite the odds against him. He was proud of his alma mater and took every memory with him throughout his life. At some state events instead of the Naval Band playing “Hail to the Chief” Ford would have them play Michigan’s fight song, The Victors.
In 1994, his #48 jersey would be retired for what he accomplished both on and off the field. With permission from his family in 2012, that same number would be brought back. Ford would be named as one of the Michigan Football Legends. His number would be worn along with a commemorative patch by LB Desmond Morgan.
The longest lived President died at 93 years old in 2006, still proud of his days at Michigan. During his funeral procession to the capital the Michigan marching band played his favorite song, The Victors, one last time. Former UM football player President Gerald Ford remained a Michigan Man throughout his highly respected life and it is my honor to write about him for today’s Throwback Thursday.
Follow TBHR’s Chad Finley on Twitter, @finfive1.