The Wolverine


The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 53 of 59

54 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2020 BY JOHN BORTON M ichigan football fans lis- tening in to a game via radio hear a voice as familiar as the winged helmets them- selves. Jim Brandstatter's play- by-play delivery comes from the heart, like his affection for the subject. Brandstatter came full cir- cle — playing for Bo Schem- bechler, making his own way in the television/radio world, then returning to Michigan Stadium in a variety of broad- casting capacities. The host of "Michigan Replay" (now "In- side Michigan Football") since 1980, Brandstatter served with play-by-play man Frank Beck- mann for years as a color com- mentator, before taking over play-by-play duties in 2014. To this day, he takes nothing for granted. "I would say to myself, when I'm so tired, nodding off on the bus, 'Do you realize how many guys would do this and prob- ably do this for nothing?'" he mused. "And I'm getting paid." Brandstatter served as a mam- moth offensive tackle for Bo Schem- bechler from 1969-71. He'd never be mistaken for a breakaway back, but that's the figurative role he played in his recruitment. His father, Art Brandstatter Sr., became an All-American fullback at Michigan State in 1936. His older brother, Art Brandstatter Jr., battled at defensive end for the Spartans from 1959-61. Michigan State didn't recruit Jim, a standout for East Lansing as a prep, and "I wasn't going there anyway," he offered. Instead, Michigan head coach Bump Elliott became interested after hearing about the younger Brand- statter dominating an Ann Arbor Pioneer defensive tackle Michigan had been recruiting. U-M inquired to gauge his interest, and … "The rest is history," Brandstatter said. "I met Bump, and couldn't be- lieve what a great guy and class act he was. Hank Fonde was the recruit- ing guy that first contacted me. He was right there with Bump as a class, wonderful guy." Freshmen were ineligible to play in those days, but Brandstatter got a wake-up call just striding through the door as a rookie. "Walking in and seeing Glenn Doughty and Reggie McKenzie and Freddy Grambau and some of these guys that were recruited, I just went, 'Holy crap!' What did I get myself into?" he remembered. The feeling intensified a few months later. The rookies wouldn't play a snap in a game for Elliott. In- stead, they encountered a new boss — destined for coaching greatness, but not looking to make any immedi- ate friendships. "The first time around, Bo grabbed me around the midsection and said, 'We need to take care of that,'" Brand- statter recalled. "He knew about my family at Michigan State, and he said, 'How did you ever come here?' "He treated us all equally — like crap. I don't know whether he did this on purpose, but it was the old common enemy thing. We didn't like him very much, believe me. "But when we beat Ohio State in '69, we kind of looked around and went, 'You know, he's nuts, but he's nuts for a reason." Everyone old enough to re- member cherishes the iconic 24-12 victory over the Buck- eyes in '69. By now, even their grandchildren have heard all the stories. What Brandstatter remembers most about the win involves the confidence Michi- gan carried going in, and how it wasn't matched on campus — at all. "Nobody thought we'd ever win it," he said. "People on campus said, 'How are you going to keep it close?' I re- member distinctly saying to people: 'What are you guys talking about? We're going to win!' They'd look at me and laugh, pat me on the back." Broadcast partner Dan Di- erdorf — whom Brandstatter backed up at offensive tackle in 1968 — says Michigan lost the subsequent Rose Bowl the instant the team heard about Schem- bechler's heart attack in Pasadena. Brandstatter agreed. "He pushed us, and we didn't nec- essarily like him that much, but by God, he was our leader," Brandstatter said. "He was the guy in front of the charge. Without our guy in front of the charge, we didn't have the edge you need win a game at that level." Brandstatter likened backing up Pro Football Hall of Famer Dierdorf to "backing up Lou Gehrig." But during his junior year, the understudy saw significant time as a third tackle, run- ning plays in on "heavy" packages. Michigan beat Arizona 20-9 in the opener, and the tackle delivered a confidence-building blow on a screen pass to Billy Taylor. "I got a great block," he recalled. "The cornerback came up to support, and I was on my way out there, and I kicked him out, almost off the side- line. I remember being on the ground, rolling around, and I heard this roar. We had scored, and it was a big score. "That was the first time I remem- ber thinking, 'You know what? I can do this.' It was that aha moment. The game meant something, we scored on the play and I did my job." Brandstatter has been on the Michigan radio broadcast team for football since the mid-1980s, first serving as the color analyst before taking over as the play-by-play announcer in 2014. PHOTO COURTESY BRANDSTATTER   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Jim Brandstatter Remains A Voice For Michigan

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - May2020-issue