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December 28, 2016 Happy Birthday Anniversary Frank Higgins!

Posted on December 28, 2016 by Barry Gallagher

Today’s post celebrates the Happy Birthday Anniversary of Frank Higgins. Francis Grant “Frank” Higgins was born on this date in 1864. Yes, the legend of this Wolverine “Pigskin Pioneer” goes way back to the Civil War!

Frank Higgins was born in Hell Gate, Montana, but came to Ann Arbor from Butte, Montana in 1885 to attend the Michigan Law School. Higgins signed up to play for a Michigan captain named Horace G. Prettyman. Mr. Prettyman was in the middle of his three-year tenure as Michigan’s football captain. The two most important things to know about Prettyman were that he loved Michigan football and he loved winning.

Frank Higgins was listed as a “Forward” on the 1985 Michigan Football Roster which means that he was probably a pretty tough guy. The 1885 season was played in the month of November. The first two games were played against a club team from Windsor. Game one was played on November 7, 1885 in Windsor, under Canadian rugby rules. The biggest difference was that fifteen players were on the field for each team. The fact that there were a lot of bodies on the field probably slowed things down. Michigan won the game by a score of 10-0.

Game number two was played seven days later on the Michigan campus. This time only eleven players were on the field for each team and Michigan opened things up. Final score: Michigan 30 and Windsor Club 0.

The final game of the 1885 season was played in Detroit, Michigan against a team called the Peninsulars. The Wolverines finished season number six with a decisive win (42-0) over the Peninsulars.

Michigan finished the 1885 season with a perfect record of 3 wins, 0 losses and 0 ties. They outscored their opponents by a margin of eighty-two to zero. This was the first season where they played the same team twice in one season.

Frank Higgins must have enjoyed his time on the Michigan football team in 1885 because he came back for more in 1886. Captain Prettyman would repeat the pattern and play the same team twice. In this case, Albion College agreed to play “home-and-home” games with the Wolverines. They only thing that was different from 1885 is that there would be no other games.

The first game of the 1886 season was played in Albion and Michigan won by a score of 50-0. The Wolverines played the role of “gracious” hosts and eased up on their guests in game number two in Ann Arbor. Final score: Michigan 24   Albion 0. This would be the first time that a Michigan football “season” was played against the same team. It was also the first time that the entire season took place in the month of October (October 16 and 30). The record shows that Frank Higgins was good enough to play in both games. He earned his second varsity letter in 1886. Frank Higgins played on two undefeated teams in 1885 and 1886. Michigan’s record for this period was 5-0-0. The Wolverines dominated by outscoring the opposition by a margin of 156-0. Wow – Higgins played on some of the best teams in the early history of Michigan football!

One other interesting thing about Frank Higgins is that he was tied second man from Montana to play football at Michigan.  Teammate Thomas McNeil was the first in 1883. Frank Higgins earned his law degree from Michigan and returned to Montana where he put his skills to good work. To read more about the accomplishments of Frank Higgins after Michigan go to the Wikipedia article linked below.    

So, on the one-hundred and fifty-second anniversary of his birth, let us remember Francis Grant “Frank” Higgins. He was another “Michigan Man” who left Ann Arbor to do great things. Unfortunately, Frank Higgins did not do as much as he could have since he died on October 15, 1905 at the age of forty. Thanks for men like Frank Higgins who were a vital part of the early years of Michigan football. May he always rest in peace! Go Blue!    



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