The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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44 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW "He was a year behind me, and I always said the only reason I was voted All-Big Ten was because I played next to him, and they couldn't give him All-Big Ten in two posi- tions, his and mine," Conley quipped. "He was a phenomenal player and athlete in every sport. He was a great track guy, played basket- ball and could have played a lot more. "He was one of the best players I've ever seen in college." A week after disposing of Navy, the Wol- verines called on Yearby again, this time to help get a massive, green gorilla off their backs. Michigan Sate had owned the rivalry in recent years, going unbeaten an unprece- dented eight straight in the series (six wins and two ties), and the Spartans got the Wolverines in East Lansing. Michigan State appeared to be on its way to nine in a row, carrying a 10-3 lead midway into the fourth quarter, but U-M responded for a 17-10 win with 14 points in the final seven minutes on a five-yard pass from Timberlake to running back Rick Sygar and a 31-yard strike from Sygar to wide receiver John Hen- derson on a halfback pass. Talented fullback Mel Anthony added 70 yards on 21 carries, but it was up to the defense to step up when the Spartans tried to drive late. Conley turned to his friend Yearby once again. "We had pulled one out of our hat with Rick Sygar, with the halfback pass to John Hender- son, but they came back and were marching down field again. I said to Yearby, 'It ends here.' I think Bill ended up sacking the quar- terback or hitting the running back and it went from first-and-10 to third-and-17 because of him," Conley recalled with a chuckle. "Yearby was just disturbing everything. He was just was so good." The 1964 squad will gather without him when they meet this fall for their 50-year re- union. Yearby died in 2010, one of the few they've lost from the 1964 team — but he won't be forgotten. "He was a fierce competitor, but he was the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet off the field," Ward shared. "He was just very humble. You wouldn't think he was a two-year All-American at Michigan. He was a great player, but a better person." The Team, The Team, The Team There was no shortage of players like that on his 1964 team recalled Elliott — now 89 years old and still residing in Iowa City, where he became beloved as Iowa's athletics director for several years. Timberlake was an All-American after posting 807 passing yards and 574 rushing yards, and Yearby became a two-time All-American and earned team MVP honors 1965, but there were so many others. Nine or so came from the small town of Niles, Ohio, alone, Conley recalled, led by Sygar. "I always said if you invented the sport to- morrow, he'd be the best fit, the guy to beat," Conley said. "He could do everything. His eye-hand coordination is better than any hu- man being I've ever seen in my entire life. He played baseball and football at Michigan, and he probably could have played basketball. Unfortunately, he'd broken his leg and that cost him a step or two, or we'd still be reading about him." Chicago native and 6-3, 220-pound tackle Jerry Mader was another whose leadership was unquestioned. He and the other upper- classmen made a pact before the school year ended in the spring of 1964. "The last five games of 1963, the only loss we had was to Ohio State — and that was when Paul Warfield made an unbelievable catch falling out of the end zone in a snow- storm and we lost 14-10," Mader recalled. "We had tied Iowa, and they were ranked. We won at Illinois when they were second in the nation, and Northwestern was ranked when we beat them. We started to hit our stride end of the season. "We told each other after that: 'Let's go out and gain 15 pounds of muscle, come back and win the Big Ten.'" Conley was one of the other catalysts, Mader and Elliott both recalled. "Jim Conley was a great captain," Elliott said. "We had a single captain at that time, and he was an outstanding leader. He really ran a tough ship as a player. I know there were times he stepped in and did things we didn't even know about. "Within the team the leadership was great — but the people who were with him were all great friends. They listened to him, and they themselves were great leaders. It was a very compatible team. Everybody got along well together, they respected each other and really played together all the time." It takes more than one class, though, and the talent behind them proved to be just as impressive. Defensive back Rick Volk was a sophomore who would enjoy a 12-year NFL career, starting offensive guard Tom Mack would become the No. 1 overall draft pick and an NFL Hall of Famer after a 13-year career in which he played in 11 Pro Bowls, linebacker Frank Nunley was a 10-year pro and standout in San Francisco, end Bill Laskey went on to star for the Oakland Raiders during a 10-year career. "It wasn't just Timberlake and Ward and some of others who were outstanding, and Yearby and those guys on defense," Elliott said. "Tom Mack was great, and so many others were, too. We had good players all the way through the team that worked together, respected each other and really were part of the whole picture." That was on full display in the backfield, where Ward, Anthony and Jim Detwiler all made big impacts. Any one of them could All-American quarterback Bob Timberlake compiled 1,381 yards of offense (574 rushing and 807 pass- ing) and scored 80 points (eight TDs, four field goals and 20 extra points) to lead U-M to a 9-1 record. PHOTO COURTESY BENTLEY HISTORICAL LIBRARY 42-47.1964 50th Anniversary.indd 44 6/19/14 4:37 PM

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