Michgian Football Team 1898 Michigan Wolverine Football History

January 10, 2019 Happy Birthday Anniversary John McLean

Posted on January 9, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a perfect day to remember John McLean and recognize his birthday anniversary. John Frederick McLean was born on this day way, way back in 1878. Yes, that was a very, very long time ago. Interestingly, John McLean was another Wolverine who was born in Menominee, Michigan. After a successful high school career, John McLean sought to fulfill his college destiny at The University of Michigan.

(Note: John McLean is shown above with the 1898 Michigan Football Team. He is standing in the back row and is the third man from the left. The 1898 team was the first Wolverine football team to win a Western Conference Football Championship. Hail to the Victors! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: John McLean

Aspiring Michigan Man

John McLean, a multi-sport athlete, came to Ann Arbor in 1897 with some big ambitions. He intended to pursue his degree and compete in football and track and field for the Michigan Wolverines. McLean’s name first showed up on a Michigan Football Roster in 1897. He was a speedy halfback who did not play in his first Wolverine season. Unfortunately, John McLean did not earn a letter in year one. However, Michigan had a respectable season in 1897. The Wolverines won 6, lost 1 and tied 1 game. Their conference record of 2-1-0 was only good for third place.

Football Starter and Record Setting Trackster

Coach Gustave Ferbert expected more from himself and his players in 1898 and he got more from everyone! Michigan had a record setting season in year two of the Gustave Ferbert Era.  The Wolverines posted a record of 10 wins, 0 losses and 0 ties. They were perfect in the conference with a record of 3-0-0. Most importantly, Michigan won their first Western Conference title in 1898. John McLean contributed to the great success of the 1898 team with his speed and his toughness. He started two games at right halfback, played in every game, and earned a letter in his second year on the football team.

John McLean’s third year on the Michigan football team was his best season. However, the Wolverines slipped a little in the won-loss column. McLean made more starts than any halfback on the Michigan roster in 1899. He became famous for his dashes around left and right end. Many of these runs produced big yardage and lots of trips to the end zone in 1899. Michigan finished the last season of the nineteenth century with an excellent record of 8 wins and 2 losses. The Wolverines went 1-1-0 in the conference which dropped them to third place.

John McLean | bibbluefootballhistory.com

John McLean was the first Michigan football player to compete in the Olympics and win a medal. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

John McLean finished his football career by earning All-American honors from two newspapers in 1899, but they are not recognized by the Michigan Athletic Department. He also left as a Wolverine record holder in track and field (110 yard hurdles and the Broad Jump). McLean was also a winner of multiple Western Conference Track and Field Championship Events from 1898 to 1899.

Michigan Football Firsts

The multi-talented McLean was fortunate to be part of some important Michigan football and athletic firsts. Check this out:

·         He was on Coach Gustave Ferbert’s first football team at Michigan (2nd and 3rd too!).

·         McLean played on the first ten-win team in Michigan Football History.

·         John McLean played with Michigan’s first All-American, William Cunningham (1898)

·         He was also a proud member of Michigan’s first Western Conference Champions in 1898

·         John McLean was the first Michigan football player to be an Olympian (1900) when he competed in the long jump, 110 yard hurdles, triple jump and the standing triple jump. He won silver in the hurdles which meant that he was the first Michigan football player to win an Olympic Medal!


So, John McLean came to Ann Arbor with some big ambitions and he left with a long list of accomplishments and many great Wolverine  memories. It is certainly a good day to remember this “Wolverine Pigskin Pioneer” on the one-hundred forty-first anniversary of his birth. John McLean was a true-blue Michigan Wolverine who died on June 4, 1955 at the age of seventy-seven. May Michigan Man John McLean always rest in peace. Go Blue!



Part II. National Day Calendar Note

Today is another multiple “event” day on America’s calendar. Yes, there are four things happening today that you may, or may not, know about. Here they are:

  • Bittersweet Chocolate Day – You can have mine!
  • Cut Your Energy Costs Day – Always a good idea.
  • Oysters Rockefeller Day – Nope, I don’t do oysters – have some on me!
  • Save the Eagles Day – Actually I went to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago over the holidays and learned that the Eagles have been saved since they are no longer on the endangered species list – yahoo!

So, enjoy these events as you see fit and have a Tremendous Thursday!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *