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June 19, 2019 Happy Birthday Anniversary Rolla Bigelow

Posted on June 18, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to remember the Happy Birthday anniversary of Rolla Bigelow who was born on this day in 1878. Robert Lavante “Rolla” Bigelow was born in Corunna, Michigan. After high school, he enrolled at Michigan Agricultural College (MAC) where he played one season of football in 1898. However, Bigelow saw the light and transferred to Michigan where he studied engineering and played football for Fielding Yost.

(Rolla Bigelow is probably in this picture, but no one in the photo is identified. It is the entire 1902 Michigan Wolverine Football team, not just the letter winners. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: Rolla Bigelow

A Dedicated Wolverine, Right From the Start!

Bigelow was a member of the 1902 Wolverine team that dominated college football. The Wolverines posted back-to-back eleven win seasons and were on a twenty-two game winning streak after Coach Yost’s first two seasons. All this winning earned the Wolverines two straight Big Ten Championships and two national championships in 1901 and 1902. Although Rolla did not letter in 1902, Coach Yost must have liked what he saw in young Rolla Bigelow.

Bigelow came back ready and eager for the 1903 season. It turned out to be another undefeated season for the Wolverines although they tied one game (Minnesota 6-6) to finish at 11 wins 0 losses and 1 tie. Although Michigan’s winning streak was halted at twenty-nine games, the Wolverines remained undefeated in thirty-four straight games at the end of the 1903 season.

Bigelow Earned Playing Time, But No Letters

Rolla Bigelow had his best season in 1903 and actually played in some games. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, he started two games and scored five touchdowns during the season. Unfortunately, he did not earn enough playing time to get a letter from the demanding Yost. In 1902, 75 players turned out in the fall, but at the end of the season, only 12 men earned a letter. The pattern in 1903 was almost exactly the same since 12 men received a letter for their efforts compared to 63 players who had a roster spot at the start of the season.

Rolla Bigelow Michigan Football | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Rolla Bigelow was part of the 1902 and 1903 undefeated Michigan Football teams. After graduation in 1905, he embarked on a very successful career in the banking. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Foundation.

So, even though he wasn’t a famous Wolverine, Rolla Bigelow is still part of Michigan Football history. He was on two of Michigan’s greatest teams in 1902 and 1903.

Rolla Bigelow and Some Michigan Football “Firsts.”

  • Rolla Bigelow was part of the first Michigan team to post 5 conference wins in 1902.
  • Bigelow was also part of the first Michigan Football team to play games against Drake, Ferris State, and Ohio Northern in 1903.

It appears that Rolla Bigelow had better things to do in 1904 since his name did not show up on the Michigan Football Roster. He probably focused on his studies and started to think about life after football. Rolla Bigelow graduated with an engineering degree from Michigan in 1905. Interestingly, he went on to a successful banking career. Please take a moment to remember Rolla Bigelow. He is another “Pigskin Pioneer” who is part of the long line of Michigan Wolverines that dates back to 1879. Go Blue!




Part II. June 19, 2019 National Day Calendar Update


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