Today is a great day to wish a Happy Birthday to a Wolverine record-setter named Mike Lantry. Michael William “Mike” Lantry was born on this day in Michigan. He grew up in Oxford, Michigan and became an outstanding athlete at Oxford High School. He was a star on the Wildcat football and track teams. Mike was a state champion shot putter when he graduated from high school in 1966. He didn’t think he was ready for college since he didn’t have a very good plan for his future. Instead of going straight to college, he enlisted in the U. S. Army. Lantry grew up pretty quickly after spending a year in Vietnam. Fortunately, he came home after his enlistment was up. Now, Mike Lantry was ready for college. Lantry took his G.I. Bill benefits to Ann Arbor and enrolled at Michigan in 1971.
(Note-Left-footed kicker Mike Lantry (#36) is shown above. He was a record setting kicker for Bo Schembechler in the early 1970s. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Lantry was an unusual man for his time in Ann Arbor. He was a Vietnam Veteran, a husband and a father. Obviously, he was not your typical college freshman. At 6’ 2’’tall and 210-pounds, Lantry still had some competitive juices flowing when he returned from Vietnam. He decided to “walk-on” the Michigan Football Program during spring drills in 1972. Bo liked Mike Lantry and gave him a chance to play for the Wolverines. Mike won the starting place kicker’s job and was Bo’s “man” for the next three years.
Mike Lantry had a good season in 1972 and so did the Wolverines. Mike kicked 5 field goals and made 31 of 35 extra-point kicks. He made the winning kick in the final minute of the game to beat Purdue by a score of 9-6. Mike scored fifty-six points in that first year and earned his first varsity letter. Although most of his kickoffs went into the end zone, not all of them did. However, Lantry was tough enough to run down a few kick returners. He actually recorded 6 solo tackles and assisted on another that first season. I am sure that Bo loved it. A kicker that could make tackles, now that’s a football player! Michigan finished the season with a final record of 10 wins and 1 loss. They also tied for the Big Ten Championship with a record of 7-1-0.
Lantry was back for the 1973 season and expectations were high for Bo’s Wolverines. Mike set a record and led the team in scoring in his junior year. He broke the Michigan record for longest field goal and he did it twice in the same game. Mike kicked a 50-yard field and a 51-yarder in a 47-10 win over Stanford on September 22, 1973. He made 42 of 43 PATs and made 8 of 13 field goals for a total of 66-points. Unfortunately, his ninth field goal of the season eluded him in the infamous 10-10 tie against Ohio State. The “good news” was that Michigan tied OSU for the conference championship with identical records of 7-0-1. However, the “bad news” was that the Buckeyes got the vote from the conference athletic directors to go to the 1974 Rose Bowl. Of course, Bo went nuts about the “injustice.” So, Mike Lantry, Dennis Franklin and a bunch of very talented Wolverines sat home on New Year’s Day in 1974.
Mike Lantry was back for his final season in 1974. Many school kicking records were within range and Lantry achieved most of them during the season. As luck would have it, Mike’s career came down to one more kick at Ohio State. Michigan was down by a score of 10-12 with 16 seconds remaining in the game. The ball would be spotted 33-yards from the goal posts, but it was a terrible kicking angle. Lantry did what he had done so many times before, he kicked it long, and very, very high. It seemed like it took the officials a week to make the call. Radio announcer, Bob Ufer thought it was good, but the officials did not. Game over! Michigan lost another heart breaker by “inches” to the Buckeyes. Of course, in retrospect, there was no way the officials were going to “give” Bo and his team a break on that call. It would have to have been right down the middle. Anything close was going to mean victory for OSU. That’s just the reality of playing in Ohio Stadium. I know it sounds like sour grapes, but check the record starting in 2016 and go back from there!
So, as the 1974 Michigan Media Guide stated, “Mike Lantry finished his career as a “walk-on with one of the great success stories of college football.” No, Mike did not make all of his kicks, but he made enough to become a record-setting kicker at Michigan. He left Ann Arbor with three varsity letters in football and track, three Big Ten Titles, All-Big Ten Honors (3 times), All-Big Ten All-Academic team honors (1972), and Football News All-American honors in (1973).
So, today is a great day to remember the achievements of Mike Lantry. He started 33-straight games for the Wolverines and helped put 30 wins on the board for Michigan. He also played on three Big Ten Championship teams. Bottom line – Mike Lantry was one of Bo’s finest “Michigan Men!” I hope that Mike Lantry has a wonderful birthday celebration today with his family and friends today. Thanks for the memories Mike and Go Blue!
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