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February 18, 2017 – Happy Birthday Rich Hewlett!

Posted on February 18, 2017 by Barry Gallagher

Happy Birthday Michigan Man Rich Hewlett. Bo Schembechler recruited the talented Hewlett from nearby Plymouth-Salem High School. Rich Hewlett was a two-time All-State football player as well as an All-State basketball player. He is one of the best athletes that Bo ever recruited. Hewlett was an especially gifted runner (averaged 5.4 yards per carry in high school) so he seemed destined to be the next man to run Bo’s option offense.

Rich Hewlett Quarterback | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Rich Hewlett (#19) started three games at Quarterback in 1979 and 1980. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Rich Hewlett saw action as a freshman in 1979. He was a proud member of Team 100 in Michigan Football History. Michigan, as usual, started the season with high expectations as was the norm in the Schembechler Era. Hewlett learned enough about Bo’s offense to earn playing time towards the end of the season. He played in a 54-0 blowout against Wisconsin. Interestingly, he earned the start in the final game of the season against second ranked Ohio State. You can count the freshman quarterbacks who started against OSU on one hand. Hewlett is one of them. Rich performed admirably, but injured his ankle after being sacked in the second quarter. That was it for the game and the season. The Wolverines came up short in a 15-18 loss to the Buckeyes. Michigan finished the season with a record of 8 wins and 4 losses. All four losses were by three points or less. They finished third in the conference, but oh, what might have been!

Rich Hewlett appeared to have the inside track for the starting quarterback job in 1980. However, a guy named John Wangler was also battling for the job. As it turned out, Rich started the first two games of the season against Northwestern (won 17-10) and Notre Dame (lost 27-29).

Bo had seen enough. Michigan had now lost four of five games dating back to the last three games of 1979 and the first two games in 1980. Not only did he change quarterbacks [(Hewlett-the runner) to Wangler-the passer)], he changed his entire offense! Bo decided it was time to scrap the option offense that had served him so well since 1969. Instead, he went to a pro-style offense that would feature a more balanced attack. The quarterback would be throwing more and running less. Everything changed that season, especially for Rich Hewlett.

Bo’s new offense sputtered in the first week against South Carolina and the Wolverines lost 14-17. Then everything started to click and the Wolverines won nine straight games to win the Big Ten championship (8-0-0) and Bo’s first bowl game!

Rich Hewlett Defensive Back | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Rich Hewlett started four games at Strong Safety in 1982 and 1983. He left Michigan with four varsity letters and two Big Ten Championships. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Rich Hewlett is a very smart guy and he was astute enough to see that his future as a passing quarterback at Michigan probably wasn’t in the cards. In 1981, he had a choice to make. He could be the backup quarterback to Steve Smith or burn a red-shirt and learn to play defense for Bill McCartney. Rich decided to red-shirt, learn how to play defensive back and strengthen his academics. All three choices worked out just fine for the competitive Hewlett! Rich came to play football at Michigan and get his degree. He wanted to finish his career on the field and that’s exactly what happened!

Hewlett played a lot of strong safety and special teams in his last two years at Michigan (1982 and 1983). He actually made more starts (4) on defense than he did on offense (3). I think Bo loved Rich for being tough enough to make the switch from offense to defense and really contribute. Hewlett finished with 42 tackles on defense, 3 pass break-ups, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 interception. I don’t know if Bo ever checked the numbers, but Rich Hewlett was a good man to have on the field. When Rich played offense, Michigan won seven of nine games. With Hewlett on defense, the Wolverines were just a little bit better at eight wins and two losses. So, Rich Hewlett helped Michigan go 15-4-0 when he was on the field – very impressive numbers!

Like so many Michigan Men before him, Rich Hewlett loved the game of football. He came to Michigan on a scholarship and competed for playing time with some outstanding players during his five years. He left Ann Arbor with his head held high! Hewlett moved on with four varsity letters, two Big Ten Championships, a ton of memories and some friendships that would last a lifetime.  He was also part of some interesting “firsts” during his time at Michigan.

·         Through no fault of his own, Rich Hewlett, was right in the middle of what was probably the first, and only, time a coach changed his offense after two games into a season. As they say, the rest is history!

·         Rich helped Michigan win the 1980 Big Ten Championship (8-0-0) which meant that Michigan remained as the first, and only, team in conference history to win a title in every decade of conference play.

·         Rich, and his teammates gave Bo Schembechler his first bowl win in the 1981 Rose Bowl (23-6) against Washington.

·         When the Wolverines won the Blue Bonnett Bowl on December 31, 1981, it marked the first time that a Michigan team and Bo won two bowl games in the same calendar year! Of course, this was also the first time that Bo had won back-to-back bowl games!

So, congratulations Rich Hewlett on your achievements on and off the field. Bo loved his “Michigan Men” and I know that Rich Hewlett was one of his favorites! Thank you Rich for your contributions to the very long Maize and Blue line that dates all the way back to 1879! I wish you a very BIG Maize and Blue Happy Birthday! I hope you enjoy your special day today. Go Blue!

Take time to learn more about Rich Hewlett by reading the links below. His son Joe is a running back for Jim Harbaugh so Rich is still tied very closely to Michigan football team and proud of it!.




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