Butch Woolfolk Michigan Football 1981 | gobluefootballhistory.com M Go Blue Football History | Michigan Football History | Michigan Wolverine Football History

February 23, 2019 Black History Month Tribute – Butch Woolfolk

Posted on February 22, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

The purpose of today’s blog is to appreciate the career of Michigan Man Butch Woolfolk. Harold E. “Butch” Woolfolk was born on March 1, 1960 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Woolfolk grew up to be an outstanding high school athlete. He was a record-setting football player and track man at Westfield High School in Westfield, New Jersey. Bo Schembechler got him on his radar and the rest is Michigan Football History!

(Note-Michigan Man Butch Woolfolk (#24 in white) was the MVP of the 1981 Rose Bowl, the 1981 Bluebonnett Bowl and the Michigan Football team. What a year! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Butch Woolfolk Arrives in Ann Arbor in 1978

Woolfolk was one of Bo’s top recruits in 1978 and the talented Woolfolk got off to a good start. He logged 77 carries and gained 359 yards for an average of 4.7 yards per carry in his first year at Michigan. He actually started two games as a freshman. Butch lettered on a team that finished at 10 wins and 2 losses. The Wolverines also tied for the Big Ten Championship with a record of 7 wins and 1 loss. Woolfolk was off to a good start in Ann Arbor. He also joined the Michigan Track team so that he could work on his speed and endurance. Good idea!

Michigan Man Butch Woolfolk started five more games as a sophomore, but probably could have started more if he was a little more physical at the point of contact. He liked to run around people more than he liked to run over them so Bo didn’t always like Butch on the field. Woolfolk still gained 990 yards on 191 carries. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored a league-high 13 touchdowns for the Wolverines in 1979. Butch had an outstanding year, but the demanding Schembechler wanted more! Even with Bo nipping at his heels, Woolfolk was good enough to earn first-team All-Conference honors. Michigan finished with a final record of 8 wins and 4 losses that year. Unfortunately, the Wolverines slipped to third in the conference with a record of 6-2-0.

Some Big Challenges in 1980

The 1980 season was a big challenge for Bo, for Butch Woolfolk and for Michigan. After Michigan lost four of five games dating back to 1979, Bo scrapped his option offense and went to a more diversified attack that still featured power running, but also showcased the throwing arm of John Wangler and the speed and catching ability of Anthony Carter. The “new” offense got off to a rough start and the Wolverines lost to South Carolina by a score of 14-17. After that, it was lights out on both sides of the ball! Michigan won nine straight games, captured the Big Ten Championship and earned a berth in the 1981 Rose Bowl.

After the “bugs” in the new offense got worked out, Butch Woolfolk really took off! He rushed for 1,042 yards and raised his average yards per carry from 5.2 in 1979 to 5.3 in 1980. He scored 8 more touchdowns and earned All-Big Ten Honors for the second straight season. Ah, but the best was yet to come. Michigan did something in January 1981 that no Bo Schembechler team had ever done! The Wolverines won the Rose Bowl and gave Bo a very nice Happy New year’s gift! Butch Woolfolk continued his outstanding play and was named the MVP of the 1981 Rose Bowl. He was running over, around and through enemy defenders.  So, Bo was liking Butch a lot more. Life was good for Bo, Butch, and Wolverine Nation!

All American Butch Woolfolk | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Michigan Man Butch Woolfolk ended his career as a record-holder and All-American in 1981. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Strong Finish

Hard-running Michigan Man Butch Woolfolk was the featured tailback for the 1981 season. He started all twelve games that year and did some very special things for Michigan. He became only the third man to lead Michigan in rushing for the three straight seasons by amassing 1,459 yards on 253 carries. Woolfolk  joined Tom Harmon and Billy Taylor in a very elite group of running backs with that achievement. Butch averaged 5.8 yards per carry and scored 6 more touchdowns for the Maize and Blue. He also earned All-American honors for the first time and All-Big Ten honors for the third straight year! Oh yes, he was selected as Michigan’s team MVP for the 1981 season. If you are keeping score that made it two MVP awards in one calendar year (1981 Rose Bowl and 1981 regular season)!

Ah, but it gets even better! Butch finished his career in style with a stellar performance in the 1981 Bluebonnett Bowl on December 31, 1981 in Houston, Texas. Michigan defeated UCLA by a score of 33-14.  Woolfolk rushed for 186 yards on 27 carries and earned one more MVP selection in 1981. It was the first, and only, time that a Michigan player has ever been named as an MVP three times in one calendar year. I don’t think it will ever happen again!

Woolfolk is the first, and only, Michigan Man to rush for 92-yards and a touchdown (Nov 1979) which is still the longest TD run from scrimmage in Michigan Football History! Check out the YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrL1f0n0uRc

Butch Woolfolk’s Michigan Legacy

Yes, Michigan Man Butch Woolfolk’s name is still all over the Michigan Football Record Book and he hasn’t played a down in thirty-seven seasons! I hope that Butch Woolfolk is having a great time celebrating his birthday with family and friends today! Please take a moment to appreciate the great contributions that Michigan man Butch Woolfolk made to Michigan Football history. He gave everything he had to the Maize and Blue (on the field and the track) and he sent a son (Troy) to play for Michigan as well. You can’t do any more than that for your alma mater! Thanks for the memories Butch and Go Blue!



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