Today is a great day to appreciate a Michigan Man Dennis Franklin. According to the 1974 Michigan Football Media Guide, Dennis E. Franklin was born at Massillon, Ohio on August 24th. He grew up to be a record-setting quarterback for the Massillon Tigers. Franklin knew how to run and he could also pass. Bo Schembechler thought he was the perfect man to run his option offense at Michigan. So, Bo went after Dennis Franklin and convinced the young Buckeye to become a Michigan Wolverine. The rest, as they say, is history!
(Note – Dennis Franklin (#9) is shown above with the 1974 Big Ten Co-Champion Michigan Wolverine Football team. He is seated in the first row –seventh man from the right. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Dennis Franklin arrived in Ann Arbor in 1971. Freshmen, even the best ones, did not play on the varsity in 1971. Franklin was good, but he would have to wait his turn. Dennis worked on the freshman team and did his best to learn Bo’s offense. Apparently, he learned his lessons well!
Franklin won the starting quarterback job for the 1972 season. He did not relinquish that responsibility until his Michigan career ended in November 1974. Although he doesn’t like to talk about it, Dennis Franklin is usually described as the first African-American to quarterback a Michigan Football team. And yes, he did it very well.
Dennis Franklin started thirty-one games from 1972 to 1974. He ran Bo’s option offense about as well as anyone could. He was a dangerous runner who gained over 1,200 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. Franklin didn’t have to throw a lot, but when he did he usually got the job done. He threw 18 career touchdown passes and totaled over 2,200 yards. Dennis earned the John Maulbetsch Award in 1972 and the Meyer Morton Award in 1974. His teammates honored him by naming him as a Co-Captain (along with Dave Brown) for the 1974 season. Dennis also earned All-Conference Honors in 1973.
Interestingly, all the stats that I mentioned above are not the most important thing to know about Dennis Franklin. The most important thing to know about Dennis Franklin is that he was the first three-season starting quarterback in Michigan Football History to lead the Wolverines to three straight Big Ten Championships. Yes, that’s a fact!
Bottom line – Dennis Franklin was a winner! He led his teams to a record of 30 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie in 33 games. Of course, the Big Ten’s archaic bowl rules and the 1973 fiasco about the 10-10 tie with OSU did not help Franklin, or Michigan in the early 1970s. Dennis Franklin will always be remembered as the best quarterback in Michigan Football History who never had the honor to lead a team in a bowl game.
Thanks to Dr. Sap for this excellent highlight from Dennis Franklin’s Michigan career!
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