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April 12, 2017 Happy Birthday Anniversary Leo Keena!

Posted on April 12, 2017 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a perfect day to remember the Happy Birthday Anniversary of a Wolverine named Leo Keena. Leo Japathet Keena was born on this day way, way back in 1878. Yes, that was a very, very long time ago. Leo Keena was a “Pigskin Pioneer” who was born in Detroit, Michigan. After a successful high school career, he sought to fulfill his college destiny at The University of Michigan.

Leo Keena was a hard-running and hard-blocking fullback who could also kick the pigskin a long way. He arrived at Michigan in 1896, but he spent his first year on the freshman team. He started one game in the 1897 season and played enough to earn his first varsity letter.

Keena came back to play in 1898. He started two more games that season and earned his second letter. He also earned a place in Michigan football history by helping his team win the first Western Conference Championship. Michigan finished with a perfect record of 10-0-0 and won 3 games and lost 0 in the conference.

Leo Keena Michigan Football 1899 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Leo Keena played on the last three Michigan football teams of the nineteenth century. hoto courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Leo Keena’s third year on the Michigan varsity football team was his best season. However, the Wolverines slipped a little in the won-loss column. Keena started four games at fullback and earned his third varsity letter. Michigan finished the last season of the nineteenth century with an excellent record of 8 wins and 2 losses. They went 1-1-0 in the conference which dropped them to third place.

Leo helped the Wolverines win 24 games during his final three years in  Ann Arbor. He, and his teammates, also won the first championship in Michigan’s football history. Keena was also fortunate to be part of some important Michigan football “firsts.” Here are some of the best that I could find for him.

·         Leo Keena was on Coach Gustave Ferbert’s first football team at Michigan in 1897 (2nd and 3rd too!).

·         Leo played in the first Homecoming game in Michigan football history against a talented group of alumni on October 30, 1897. (UM lost 0-15)

·         Keena played on the first ten-win team in Michigan Football History in 1898.

·         Leo Keena was also a proud member of Michigan’s first Western Conference Champions in 1898.

So, Leo Keena played a lot of good football for Michigan at a very important time in Wolverine gridiron history. He also lived a fascinating life that you can read about in the Wikipedia article linked below. Today is a great day to remember a “Michigan Man” who contributed to the great history that is Michigan football! May Leo J. Keena always rest in peace. Go Blue!



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