Today’s post celebrates the memory of John Vitale who went to rest in peace on this day in 2000. He was only thirty-four when he died. John Vitale was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 28, 1965. John grew up to be an excellent athlete at De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren, Michigan. He starred on both sides of the ball and earned All-State honors in his senior year. When it came time to select a college, it was a no-brainer for Vitale – he was going to be a Michigan Man!
Part I. Wolverine of the Day: John Vitale
John Vitale arrived in Ann Arbor in the summer of 1984. He was listed on the 1984 Michigan Football Roster as an “Offensive Guard.” However, he did not see any action during his freshman year and burned his red-shirt.
In 1985, Vitale worked his way into the starting lineup after three games. He ended the season with 9 starts at left guard. The Wolverines finished the season as the second ranked team in the nation with a record of 10 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie. Yes, it was a very good year for Michigan and John Vitale.
Michigan had a problem in 1986 because starting center Bob Tabachino graduated. The coaching staff turned to the versatile Vitale to fill this critical position. John started all 13 games that season and helped the Wolverines to a final record of 11 wins and 2 losses. More importantly, Michigan earned a share of the Big Ten Championship with a final record of 7-1-0. John Vitale earned an honorable mention honors for his excellent Big Ten play.
Veteran John Vitale was back in 1987 and Bo knew who his starting center was – #67. Big John started every game, but the Wolverines slipped to a final record of 8 wins and 4 losses. John Vitale earned first team All-Big Ten recognition for his outstanding season.
John Vitale returned for his final season with a new title – “Co-Captain.” John, and defensive standout Mark Messner, would be the on-the-field leaders of the 1988 Michigan Football team. The Wolverines finished the season with a final record of 9 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie. However, they did win the Big Ten Championship with a final record of 7-0-1. John Vitale repeated as a first team All-Big Ten honoree and also added the title of “first team All-American” to his impressive “body of work.” John Vitale also earned the Meyer Morton Award in 1988 for his outstanding performance in Spring Drills.
Yes, John Vitale was an outstanding football player at Michigan. The teams that Vitale played on from 1985 to 1988 posted an overall record of 38 wins, 9 losses, and 2 ties. More importantly, they finished with a record of 25 wins, 5 losses and 2 ties in Big Ten play. These numbers produced a winning rate of over eighty-one percent (.813) which was good enough to claim 2 conference championships.
After graduation, John Vitale played for a few years in the World League of American Football before he hung up his spikes. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer of the spinal cord in 1994. Of course, John battled his cancer for a long time before he finally lost his fight in 2000.
Today is a good day to remember the life of John Vitale and appreciate his contributions to Michigan Football. He was an outstanding lineman, a hard-working leader, and a great teammate. John Vitale will always be an important part of the “long Maize and Blue line” that has produced the winningest program in college football history. May John Vitale continue to rest in peace. Go Blue!
Part II. July 9, 2019 National Day Calendar Update
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