Today is a great day to remember a great Michigan Man named Gerald R. Ford. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Ford was born on this day at Omaha, Nebraska in 1913. He was actually named Leslie Lynch King, Junior at birth. His parents separated in 1913 and his mother Dorothy, remarried in 1916. After his mother remarried, she called him Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. in honor of her second husband. Apparently, the paperwork lagged for a few years. Mr. Ford did not change his name “officially” until December 3, 1935.
Gerald Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He became an outstanding athlete in high school. He was captain of the 1930 Grand Rapids South High School football team and earned All-City honors. Ford drew attention from many colleges, but he chose to continue his education and his football at Michigan!
(Note-Former President Gerald R. Ford speaks to the Michigan Football team in 1987. I couldn’t identify the first player on the left, but Mark Messner, John Kolesar, John Vitale and Mike Husar are the rest of the Michigan Men shown above. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Gerald Ford did what everybody else did in the early-1930s. He spent his time on the freshman team and did his best to learn Coach Harry Kipke’s “Michigan Football System.” I am certain that young Gerry Ford applied himself with determination on the football field and in the classroom during the 1931 school year.
The good news was that Gerald R. Ford made Coach Kipke’s varsity in 1932. The bad news was that he was playing behind a future All-American center named Chuck Bernard. So, Gerald Ford played a lot of good football on offense and defense for Michigan. He didn’t earn any starts, but he earned a letter and was an important part of a Big Ten and National championship team in 1932. Michigan finished the season with perfect records of 8-0-0 overall and 6-0-0 in the Big Ten.
The 1933 Michigan Football season was like a replay for Gerald Ford. Once again, he played behind Chuck Bernard while the All-American center finished his Michigan Football career. Ford continued to play a lot at center and linebacker. He proved himself to be a tough, hard-working player who was respected by his teammates and his coaches. The Michigan Football team turned out to be another special team. They posted a final record of 7 wins 0 losses and 1 tie and went 5-0-1 in the conference. Michigan repeated as conference champions and National Champions. It was a great time to be a Maize and Blue Wolverine!
Finally, in 1934, Gerald R. Ford’s hard work paid off. He earned the starting job as the center of the Michigan Football team. Unfortunately, the 1934 team was not very good. In fact, it was the first Wolverine football squad to lose seven games in one season. The Wolverines finished with a final record of 1 win 7 losses. They were the first team to lose all six conference games. Yes, it was pretty bad, but Gerald Ford was a ray of sunshine amidst all the darkness. He made a ton of blocks and tackles for Michigan that season and was elected at the Most Valuable Player on the 1934 Michigan Football team.
So, on the twelfth anniversary his death, let us remember a special Wolverine named President Gerald R. Ford. Mr. Ford epitomized the spirit of a true, blue Michigan Man. He was not the biggest man to ever play “center” at Michigan, but pound-for-pound – he may have been the toughest! He was that good. His teammates certainly appreciated his contributions to Michigan Football and we should too. Please take a moment today to think good things about President Gerald R. Ford – the only Wolverine to become President of the United States! President Gerald R. Ford died on December 26, 2006 at the age of ninety-three. May President Gerald R. Ford continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
The Legend of Bo Schembechler is a football love story. Millions of Michigan football fans loved Bo Schembechler almost as much as he loved The University of Michigan. This insightful book details how “Bo Who” simply became “Bo” to Wolverine Nation and to college football fans across the country and around the world. It details Bo’s twenty-one-year journey to bring Michigan Football back to national prominence and how he kept it there!
Click below to order your copy!