Today is a great day to remember a Wolverine captain named Fred Henninger on his birthday anniversary. Frederick “Fred” Henninger was born in Cleveland, Ohio on this day in 1873. Yes, Henninger was a real Michigan “Pigskin Pioneer!” Fred Henninger’s family settled in Barberton, Ohio. Fred made his way from Barberton to Ann Arbor in 1893 to matriculate at Michigan and play some football.
Fred Henninger played when freshman were eligible, but only if they were good enough. Henninger was good enough to play on the offensive line as a freshman although he did not start. The 1893 team coached by Frank Barbour finished with a record of 7 wins and 3 losses.
Coach Barbour moved on after the 1893 season and Fred Erick Henninger moved up on the depth chart under new coach William McCauley. Fred started some games at guard and tackle on an excellent team that finished with 9 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie. It was the best record in the early history of Michigan Football.
William McCauley was back for the 1895 season and so was his Captain Frederick Henninger! The talented Henninger started every game in 1895. His ferocious play on both sides of the ball helped lead the Wolverines to a final record of 8 wins and 1 loss. Michigan was poised to enter the Western Conference in 1896 and Fred Henninger would be there for that historical season.
Fred Henninger came back ready and eager for his senior year. The 1896 team was the first team in Michigan Football history to play for the Western Conference title. The Wolverines were in the hunt for the championship right up until the last game of the season. The Chicago Maroons, under Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, won a close game in the Windy City by a final score of 6-7. So, Fred Henninger and his teammates had to settle for second place in the conference (2-1-0) with an overall record of 9 wins and 1 loss. They were so, so very close to winning the championship in the first season of conference play!
So, Captain Frederick Henninger finished his career with four varsity letters and a ton of wins. He, and his teammates, had the greatest four-year run of any team in the early history of Michigan Football. Michigan won 33 games, lost 6 and tied 1 during the “Henninger Years.” The Wolverines won almost eighty-four percent (.838) of their games during this period which was very impressive!
Yes, Fred Henninger was the first man from Barberton, Ohio to play for Michigan. There would be more, plus a famous coach by the name of Schembechler! Mr. Frederick Henninger certainly played a big role in building a winning tradition at Michigan. Today is a great day to remember a “Michigan Man” who contributed greatly to the early history of Michigan football. Frederick Henninger died on March 30, 1919 at the age of forty-six. May Fred Henninger always rest in peace. Go Blue!
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