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December 19, 2017 Rest in Peace Charles Widman!

Posted on December 19, 2017 by Barry Gallagher

Today is another great day to remember a Michigan Man named Charles Widman who went to rest in peace on this day in 1944. Mr. Widman was sixty-five years old at the time of his death.

According to the Wikipeida article linked below, Charles Henry Widman was born on June 17, 1879 at Rochester, New York. His family moved to Detroit, Michigan and began a furniture manufacturing company in the city.

Charles Widman Michigan Football Player 1898 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Charles Widman played for the Wolverines in the memorable 1898 football season. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Charles Widman attended Detroit High School and enrolled in Michigan’s law school as a freshman in the fall of 1898. Widman is listed at 5 feet 6 inches tall and 162 pounds on the 1898 Michigan Football Roster. No, he wasn’t a big man. However, he must have been pretty tough and very fast. Even though he was only a freshman, Widman turned out to be the best running back on the 1898 Michigan Football team.

Michigan had enjoyed two successful seasons in the coaching tenure of Gustave Ferbert. However, they finished second in their quest for a Western Conference Championship in 1896 and 1897 because of season ending losses to the Chicago Maroons. Would 1898 be the season that changed that pattern?

Ferbert’s Wolverines knew what they had to do in 1898 and they did it! They crashed through their schedule and defeated every team by at least eighteen points except Northwestern (6-5) and Illinois (12-5). Once again, they would have to journey to Chicago and defeat the Maroons in order to cap an undefeated season and win the conference championship. Thanks to Charles Widman, that’s exactly what they did!

The Wolverines faced off against the Maroons on Thursday, November 24, 1898. It was billed as the game of the season in the west. Yes, it turned out to be a classic with Michigan winning by a score of 12-11.

Widman opened the scoring on a five-yard run and Neil Snow kicked the point after touchdown to give  Michigan a 6-0 lead. Chicago came back to score their first five points on a 30-yard field goal. (Yes, field goals counted the same as touchdown in those early days!) So, the Wolverines lead 6-5 at the end of the first half.

Charles Widman earned a special place in Michigan Football History when he broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown run in the second half. With Snow’s second extra point, the Wolverines led by a score of 12-5. Chicago came back to score their only touchdown of the game. However, even with the extra point, the Maroons still trailed 12-11. Fortunately, for Michigan, that’s how this classic game ended.

Charles Widman's Run to Glory 1898 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

An artist’s rendering of Charles Widman’s game winning 65-yard run against Chicago in 1898, Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Dutch Ferbert’s footballers finished the season with a perfect record of 10-0-0. They were the unbeaten (3-0) Western Conference champions for the first time in Michigan Football history! Oh yes, the win inspired a Michigan student, Louis Elbel, to write the greatest fight song in the history of college football!

Freshman Charles Widman led the Wolverines in scoring with 12 touchdowns. He had a magnificent season, but it turned out to be his only one as a Wolverine. Unfortunately, Widman did not return to Michigan in 1899. There were accusations that he was more of an “athlete” than a “scholar” in his ony year at Michigan. Apparently, he went to work for his father and played football for the Detroit Athletic Club.

So, Charles Widman was a “one and done” Wolverine, but he was special. As it turned out, he, and his teammates accomplished some significant Michigan Football “firsts” in 1898.

  • Charles Widman played on the first Michigan team to play, and win, against Michigan Agricultural College. The Wolverines defeated the Aggies by a score of 39-0.
  • Widman played on the first Michigan Football team to win ten games in one season.
  • Charles Widman played on the first Michigan Football team to win three Western Conference games in a season (3-0).
  • Widman played on the first Michigan Football team to win the Western Conference Championship.
Charesl "The Great" WIdman Michian Football 1898 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

“Widman the Great.” Picture courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Charles Widman did not have a long career at Michigan, but it was memorable. It is fun to think about what else he could have achieved if he had stayed for two more years. Please take a moment to appreciate the contributions of Charles Henry Widman to the great history of Michigan Football. May Charles Widman continue to rest in eternal peace! Go Blue!



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