Today is a great day to honor the memory of a legendary Wolverine named George Jewett. This special post is the first in a month long series of articles on African-American men who contributed to the history of Michigan Football.
(Note – George Jewett is shown above with the 1892 Michigan Football Team. Jewett is seated in the second row – second man from the right. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
The talented Jewett was the first African-American to ever play football at The University of Michigan. George Henry Jewett II was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in April 1870. He was the son of a successful blacksmith, but he had bigger dreams. George Jewett attended Ann Arbor High School and was the valedictorian of his graduating class in 1889. He was also an outstanding athlete who starred in football and baseball.
Mr. Jewett’s name first appeared on a Michigan Football Roster in 1890. He was listed as a halfback and member of the varsity. George played fullback and halfback during the season. He also excelled on defense and did some place-kicking for the Wolverines. George Jewett’s outstanding play helped Michigan post a final record of 4 wins and 1 loss in 1890.
Jewett did not enroll at Michigan for the 1891-1892 school year. So, George did not play on the 1891 Michigan Football team. The 1891 team was the first Michigan team with a paid coach named Frank Crawford. Unfortunately, things did not work out too well for Mr. Crawford. His team posted a final record of 4 wins and 5 losses! Yes, this was the first Michigan Football team to lose five game in a single season. Of course, Frank Crawford did not return to coach the Wolverines in 1892.
The talented George Jewett came back to play in 1892. Yes, he played for a new coach named Frank Barbour. Jewett picked up right where he left off in 1890. He started every game at one of the halfback positions and helped Michigan post a final record of 7 wins and 5 losses. Yes, the 1892 was the first Michigan Football team to win seven games in one season.
George Jewett played some outstanding football for Michigan. I like to call him the “Jackie Robinson of Michigan Football.” He was a true “Pigskin Pioneer” who led the way to integrated football “back in the day.” I am certain that Jewett faced countless incidents of disrespect and racial bias. However, he persevered and laid the foundation for other African-American men to eventually follow in his footsteps. Interestingly, George Jewett left Ann Arbor to continue his studies and his football at Northwestern in 1893. He completed his medical studies at Northwestern and returned to Ann Arbor as Dr. George Jewett.
Sadly, Dr. George Jewett left his family and friends on August 12, 1908. He was only thirty-eight years old when he died. Please take a moment to remember George H. Jewett. Today is the perfect day to appreciate his significant contributions to the history of Michigan Football. May George Jewett continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
For more information about Dr. George Jewett, check out the notes in the articles linked below.
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