Today is a great day to wish a Wolverine Happy Birthday to Ali Haji-Sheikh who was born on this day in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ali went on to become one of Bo’s most famous kickers. However, before we get into the details of his career, we must first attend to today’s “trivial” matters.
By the way, how are you doing on the “trivia’ questions so far? Are they too hard? Too easy? Or Just right?
Who was the first Michigan football player to be a Western Conference Champion and an Olympian?
John McLean was an outstanding athlete at Michigan from 1897 to 1899. He was a speedy halfback who ran the “sweeps” better than anyone else that he played with. He was also an excellent track athlete. John ran the 100-yard hurdles and did the Long Jump.
McLean left Ann Arbor as an “All-American” according to two newspapers, but Michigan does not recognize his selections. However, he did play on Michigan’s first Western Conference championship team in 1898. He also set two records in track and field (hurdles and long jump). The talented McLean earned a spot on the 1900 USA Olympic Team and won a silver medal in the hurdles. Yes, he was quite an athlete. John McLean was certainly a Wolverine to remember!
Note-The photo to the left is courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.
Who was the first Wistert brother to play football at Michigan?
Ali Haji-Sheikh was born in Ann Arbor, but he actually grew up in Arlington, Texas. He became an outstanding high school football place-kicker and soccer player. Interestingly, Ali was also wide receiver and defensive back in high school. Unfortunately, he wasn’t good enough to get Bo’s attention in high school Ali decided to return “home” in 1979 and “walk-on” to the Michigan Football team. Finally, he got Bo’s attention and was Michigan’s full-time placekicker by the end of the 1979 season.
Like all kickers, Ali Haji-Sheikh had a lot of made field goals, but he also missed his share too! He had some “hero” moments and some “zero” ones as well. It all comes with the territory. Ali was a solid kicker who could boom his kickoffs and consistently make his extra points attempts. In fact, he set a Big Ten and Michigan record for consecutive PATs in 1982 with seventy-six straight over the course of two seasons.
Ali led Michigan in scoring in his senior year with seventy-seven points. He kicked twelve field goals (15 attempts) and added forty-one PATs. He still holds the record for most PATs in one game when he converted ten of ten in a 70-21 win over Illinois. Ali tied a Michigan record when he made eleven field goals in one season in 1980. He broke his own record in 1982 with those twelve made field goals in 1982.
Haji-Sheikh had two huge games against Michigan’s two biggest rivals in 1980. He made three goals against MSU which helped Michigan win by a score of 27-23. Ali scored all of Michigan’s points in a 9-3 win over OSU at Columbus! He set the Michigan record for career PATs in 1982 with 117. He now stands fifth on the all-time list. He is also number six on the all-time list for field goals made with 31.
So, today is a great day to remember Ali Haji-Sheikh and appreciate his contributions to Michigan Football History. He helped the Wolverines win two Big Ten Championships (1980 and 1982) and thirty-five games from 1979 to 1982. He earned four varsity letters and left “home” with his head held high. Ali, the “walk-on” turned out to be one of the best kickers in Michigan Football History. Ali also went on to a five-year NFL career with the New York Giants and two other teams. Happy Birthday Ali Haji-Sheikh and Go Blue!