The Wolverine

March 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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84 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2021 BY JOHN BORTON K evin Costner 's movie "Field of Dreams" in- troduced the fictional char- acter Archie "Moonlight" Graham, who experienced only one at-bat in the major leagues. Graham became a doc- tor, touching thousands of lives, and insisted he wouldn't have traded it for a big-league career. Michigan football fea- tured its own Moonlight Graham in the late 1970s. Jim Breaugh, who spent his U-M career (1977-80) as a backup to such legend- ary quarterbacks as Rick Leach and John Wangler, saw a single snap for the Wolverines. But Breaugh was going places, and he's been ev- erywhere since. He became a Navy fighter pilot, and safely delivered count- less passengers across the country and the world as a 34-year pilot for Northwest and Delta Airlines. "I was a backup quarterback," he offered. "I was a shadow in the program the whole time I was there and probably not very relevant to the on-field stuff. But I have no regrets at all. The experience that I got was amazing." The experiences he's delivered for others, for his family, and for himself have been no less amazing, all with- out incident in the skies. Breaugh grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a high school teammate of future Wolverines Jerry Meter and Bob Holloway. He performed as a standout prep QB when they were seniors, and they all wound up in Ann Arbor. While his classmates found the field, Breaugh found himself in a big pond of immense QB talent. "If I knew then what I know now, I would have competed bet- ter," he mused. "There was some awe — 'Wow, that's Rick Leach!' He was there my first two years, and I don't think anybody thought that they were going to beat Rick out. But we all knew Rick was going to leave someday." In the meantime, Breaugh found himself inside the inner circle with Bo Schembechler. As one of a hand- ful of quarterbacks on the roster, he spent time each day in the office of the "larger than life" head coach/ quarterbacks mentor. "You were part of his world for that hour and a half," Breaugh recalled. "Bobby Knight would call, and he'd step out. Lee Corso would walk in. Bill Fleming from ABC Sports would walk in. You were part of that. "I was never his guy, but he treated me like he treated everybody, with respect. But he pushed you and never let you feel too comfortable." All the while, Breaugh learned life lessons that shaped the next four decades. He might not have been Schembechler 's guy behind center, but he was on his way to being one of Bo's guys in the skies. "A lot of who I am today is obvi- ously because of Bo," Breaugh said. "You go through life, and there are a certain number of people who have an in- fluence. Your family, your father, close adults in your life. "Bo was huge. Eigh- teen- to 22-year-olds are incredibly impressionable times. Bo was a leader, and he made men out of boys. There's hardly a day that goes by that I don't realize that Bo's fingerprints are on many of the things I've done and who I've become through the years." B r e a u g h ' s M i c h i g a n teams made it to the Rose Bowl three of his four years in the program. It's what they did. It was anticipated. "We beat Ohio State three of the four years, and went to three Rose Bowls," he said. "We were good. We were expected to be good, and we were good. It was sort of like Groundhog Day. "You played, and you won. We lost 10 games in four years. Unfortunately, three of them were bowl games." His freshman year, the Wolver- ines took down the Buckeyes 14-6 in Michigan Stadium, but fell to a full Moon out in Pasadena during a 27-20 loss to Washington. "I have never seen, personally, a athlete take over and dominate a game and single-handedly beat a team like Warren Moon did," Breaugh recalled. "Warren Moon lit us up that day. He was unstoppable." The following year, the Wolverines shut down the Buckeyes again, win- ning 14-3 in the "Shoe." Quieting a rabid crown in Columbus is tough to top, athletically speaking. "It's awesome," Breaugh recalled. "Even if you've done it 10 years in a row, it never gets old. In those days, Bo was a big goal guy. It was always Ohio State. It was never the Rose Bowl." That year 's Rose Bowl slipped away to USC, 17-10, in no small mea- sure due to the "Phantom Touch- Breaugh served as a backup to legendary U-M quarterbacks Rick Leach and John Wangler during his four years (1977-80) in Ann Arbor. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETICS   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Former QB Jim Breaugh Is Still Flying High

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