The main purpose of today’s post is to remember the Happy Birthday Anniversary of a Michigan Pigskin Pioneer named Bruce Shorts. Mr. Shorts lettered on two Michigan teams from 1900 to 1901. We will look at his career as soon as we take care of today’s trivia questions.
Who was the first Michigan Man to return a kickoff 99-yards?
Joseph Dennis Fitzgerald was born in Ann Arbor on March 13, 1936. He grew up in Ann Arbor where he became an accomplished football player and wrestler at St. Thomas High School. After he graduated from high school, Dennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He served in the Marines from 1954 to 1957.
Dennis Fitzgerald’s name first appeared on a Michigan football roster in 1957. He was a twenty-one-year old freshman walk-on who wanted to play some Wolverine football, wrestle, and get his education. Four years later, Fitzgerald ended his career with two varsity football letters and a team MVP Award.
Dennis Fitzgerald’s senior year was interesting. He started two games at right halfback and played in every game. His dedication and toughness impressed everyone who saw him play. Fitzgerald was so tough that he refused to wear a plastic helmet with a face mask. Instead, Fitzgerald wore the classic leather helmet and played like a wild man! His biggest play of the season took place against Michigan State in East Lansing. He returned a kick-off for a 99-yard touchdown that gave the Wolverines an early lead. Unfortunately, the record-setting kickoff was not enough, and Michigan eventually lost to the Spartans by a score of 17-24.
Dennis Fitzgerald coached at Michigan from 1963 to 1968 before moving on to many other opportunities. He was a Kent State University from 1971 to 1977 and coached a guy named Nick Saban. In fact, he also hired Saban for his first coaching job in 1975. You can read more about Dennis Fitzgerald’s accomplishments in the Wikipedia article linked below.
Who was the youngest Head Coach in Michigan Football History?
Bruce Carman Shorts was born on this day in 1878 which was a very long time ago (139 years to be exact). According to the Wikipedia article linked below, he was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada. Shorts played high school football and starred in track and field at Mt. Pleasant High School in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.
Shorts enrolled in Michigan’s Law School in 1900. He was a pretty big man for his time (72 inches tall and about 190 pounds). Bruce played guard and tackle in 1900 and helped Michigan post a record of 7-2-1 in Langdon “Bif” Lea’s only season.
Bruce Shorts returned to play in 1901, but this season would be different, a lot different! A man named Fielding Yost was the new coach and he did things differently. He played a “fast-break” version of football that eventually led to the nickname of the “Point-a-Minute” teams. Bruce Shorts started 10 of 11 games at right tackle in 1901. He helped the Wolverines post their first 11win season (11-0-0) and win the Western Conference Championship and the National Championship. Oh, by the way, Yost’s “Hurry-Up” brand of football led to a scoring differential of 550 to 0 in that amazing season. Yes, Bruce Shorts, and his Wolverine teammates, were really, really good in 1901.
Shorts graduated from Michigan’s Law School and then went into college coaching after a working for a short time in practice. You can read more about Mr. Shorts by checking out the link below.
Yes, Bruce Shorts was a very good football player on Fielding Yost’s first “great” team. He is definitely someone who helped set a high standard for future Wolverine Football teams. Sadly, Bruce Shorts died March 29, 1945. May Michigan Man Bruce Shorts continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
Today is also a very good day to celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. Let’s honor his legacy by working toward racial equality and justice for all Americans! May Dr. King Rest in Eternal peace!