Today is a good day to send out Happy Birthday wishes for a Wolverine named Virgil Tupper. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Virgil Langstaff Tupper was born on this day in 1869 in Oil City, Pennsylvania. However, for unknown reasons, he grew up in the home of his uncle, Dr. Horace Tupper, who practiced medicine in Bay City, Michigan. Tupper attended the University of Michigan from 1891 until 1893 which is where his Wolverine football story starts.
(Note-Virgil Tupper is shown here with the 1892 Michigan Football team. He is standing in the back row – second man from the left with arms folded. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Virgil Tupper is listed as a “Guard weighing 184 pounds” on the 1891 Michigan varsity football squad. He was not listed as a starter on the 1891 team, but he is pictured with the letter winners in the team photo for that year. He was listed as one of the starting guards for the 1892 team along with Charles L. Thomas. Once again, it appears that Tupper won a second varsity letter since he also appeared in the 1892 team photo.
There are not a lot of details available about Tupper’s play, but he was part of some interesting teams in his two years at Michigan. He played on the first team to have coaches (Frank Crawford and Mike Murphy) in charge of the program in 1891. When both men left the next season, Tupper played for Frank Barbour in his first season at Michigan.
In those two seasons, Tupper was part of two interesting “firsts” at Michigan. In 1891, the Wolverines lost five games for the first time in their twelve-year history. The previous high was three losses in the winless season of 1881. Michigan lost five more games in 1892, but also won five, then six and finally seven games in one season. So, in two consecutive seasons, the Wolverines set records for losses and wins.
Virgil Tupper was also associated with many more Wolverine football “firsts.” Here are the ones that associate Tupper and the record-setting teams from 1891 and 1892.
Virgil Tupper was definitely a “Pigskin Pioneer” in the days when Michigan football really started to become a powerhouse team in the Midwest. After he left Michigan, Virgil Tupper went on to earn a medical degree and returned to Bay City, Michigan to take over his uncle’s medical practice. Dr. Virgil L. Tupper died on April 13, 1951 at the age of eighty-two.
So, today is a good day to honor the memory of Dr. Virgil L. Tupper and appreciate his contributions to Michigan football. Tupper was part of two special teams in Michigan football history. The 1892 team was the first team to play twelve games in one season. It was truly a band of “Road Warriors” who played more “away” games (9) in one season than any other Michigan team in history. Also, the 1892 Wolverines were the first M-team to play five consecutive road games against the best teams in the Midwest. Even before the fight song, Michigan strived to be the “leaders and the best!”
Thanks to the efforts of men like Dr. Tupper, Michigan Wolverine football is still going STRONG in 2017! Take a moment to remember a true Michigan Football pioneer named Dr. Virgil L. Tupper. May he always rest in peace. Go Blue!
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