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February 6, 2019 Black History Month Tribute #6 – Robert Mann

Posted on February 5, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

Today’s post celebrates the career of a Wolverine stalwart named Robert Mann. Robert “Bob” Mann was born in 1924 in New Bern, North Carolina. Bob’s father, William, was the first medical doctor in the city of New Bern. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Bob was an excellent student and athlete in high school. After graduation, Mann went to Hampton Institute to continue his education and his football career.

(Note-Robert Mann (#81) is shown at the Rose Bowl in 1948. Michigan won the game (49-0) and the National Championship. Mann is the first person on the right in the back row. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Mann Starts Late at Michigan and Leaves Quickly for the War in 1944

After two years (1942 and 1943) at Hampton, Robert Mann transferred to Michigan in 1944. Bob was listed as a “guard” on the 1944 Michigan Football Roster, but that changed. Before he got too far into his Michigan football career, Bob Mann was called to serve in the military.

Mann Returns in 1946

He returned in time to play on the 1946 Wolverine Football team. This time he played end and he played the position very well. Bob Mann led Michigan in receiving in 1946 with 14 catches (They didn’t throw the ball a lot then!) and 285-yards of offense. He earned his first varsity letter on a team that finished with a record of 6-1-1. The Wolverines posted a conference record of 5 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie. It was good enough for second place in the Big Ten. It was the sixth time that a Crisler football team finished as the conference runner-up.

Robert Mann Michigan Football 1947 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Robert Mann was a record-setting receiver on a National Championship team in 1947. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Bob Mann -A Key Player on the 1947 National Championship Team

Michigan was aiming for a Big Ten Championship in 1947 – that’s for sure! Actually, they may have exceeded their own expectations. Bob Mann, and his teammates, had one of the greatest seasons in Michigan football history. Of course, Michigan went undefeated in ten games that year and won the Big Ten Conference championship with a perfect record of 6-0-0. And, in an unprecedented event, were named National Champions by the Associated Press in the first ever vote after the bowl season. So, yes, it was a very, very good year for Michigan. No talk about “underperforming” for this bunch!

Robert Mann proved to be a “star” among “stars” in 1947. Yes, the “Mad Magicians” in the Wolverine backfield became famous, but Mann was pretty good too! He became the first Wolverine to gain over three hundred receiving yards in one season. In fact, he earned All-Big Ten honors and set a new Michigan receiving record with 357-yards for the season.

Bob Mann had a very successful career at Michigan. He was a record-setting receiver who lettered on the 1946 and 1947 Michigan football teams. Mann was also the first African-American man to lead Michigan in receiving yardage for two straight seasons in 1946 and 1947. Of course, he played on a National Championship team in 1947.

Robert Mann died in Detroit, Michigan on October 21, 2006 at the age of eighty-two. Please take a moment to appreciate Bob Mann’s life and his contributions to the great history of Michigan Football. May Bob Mann always rest in peace. Go Blue!






  • In celebrating Bob Manns Birthday, his birthplace should be added in the article for 2019. I own his birth place in New Bern, NC. His parents raised the Mann to be a 1st because they too were honored of some of the firsts. First African American Dr in New Bern. Clara his mother was an administrator with Craven County Schools, and she was behind helping form the first Hospital and Library for AFrican Americans in New Bern with her husband William.

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