The Wolverine

October 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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OCTOBER 2020 THE WOLVERINE 25 BY JOHN BORTON T housands of football players have pulled on the winged helmet (or a leather one) since 1879. Only 10 can make a top 10 list. There's endless argument over any- one's version, taking into account eras, the bigger-faster-stronger nature of football evolution, etc. With Michigan's storied football history, it's important to keep a balance between greatness in one's own era and overall skill. Here's The Wolverine's countdown of the greatest players in Michigan football history, recognizing some of the most decorated and accomplished performers ever. 1. CB CHARLES WOODSON (1995-97) Woodson proved himself unique in so many ways. The first and only ever primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy, Woodson made his- tory in that respect. He enjoyed three varsity seasons with the Wolverines, earning a pair of All-America citations and getting recognized as first-team All-Big Ten in each of those years. He led Michigan to its first national championship in 50 years in 1997, and established himself as a Buckeye killer along the way. For all of that and more, Woodson claims the top spot on this version of the all-time list of the best Michigan football performers. Woodson served notice to Ohio State in the Fremont, Ohio, native's very first appearance against them. He made a pair of key interceptions in Michigan's rousing 31-23 win over OSU in 1995. Two years later, Woodson's 78-yard punt return touchdown fueled the Wolverines' 20-14 win over the Buck- eyes. That sent U-M to the Rose Bowl, where another high-flying Woodson pickoff saved that day in a 21-16 win over Washington State to clinch the na- tional title. Along the way, Woodson's leaping, one-handed interception at Michigan State, and many other stand- out efforts, kept jaws dropping. Woodson's 18 career interceptions stand second on the all-time U-M list. His eight pickoffs in '97 ties for third in a single season at Michigan. He also broke up 30 passes, good for fifth in program history. But it was his flair for the big mo- ments that rocketed the NFL All-Pro to the top of the list. 2. HB TOM HARMON (1938-40) Harmon will always be found at the top of many all-time Michigan lists, and for good reason. He performed incredibly for Fritz Crisler's squads of 1938-40, leading the nation in total offense and scoring while earning All- America honors the last two years. Harmon registered 3,438 yards of total offense over his Michigan career. ALL-TIMERS Michigan's Top 10 Players Rose Above Charles Woodson, still the only primarily defensive player to ever win the Heisman Trophy, led Michigan to a national title in 1997 and then was picked fourth overall in the NFL Draft follow- ing his stellar junior campaign. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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