Today’s post celebrates the memory of Thomas Dudley Harmon who went to rest in peace on this day in 1990 at the age of seventy. According to the Wikipedia link listed below, Thomas Dudley Harmon was born on September 28, 1919 in Rensselaer, Indiana. He grew up to be an outstanding athlete at Horace Mann High School in Gary, Indiana. Harmon was one of the most heavily recruited players in the early years of college football. His high school coach, Doug Kerr, played football at Michigan and that helped the Wolverines land the athletically precocious Harmon.
Tom Harmon came to play football for Harry Kipke and did his time on the freshman team in 1937. After Kipke was fired, he would be playing for a man named Fritz Crisler. It worked out fine for Harmon, Crisler and everyone else at Michigan.
Harmon wasn’t the only star recruit that came to Michigan in 1937. Guys like Forest Evashevski, Ralph Fritz, Bill Herrmann, Rueben Kelto and Paul Kromer would go on to play a lot of good football for Crisler’s Wolverines.
Thomas Dudley Harmon shared time at the right halfback position with Fred Trosko in 1938, but by the end of the season, he was starting every game. Harmon was such a versatile athlete (runner, passer, defender, kicker and punter) that Coach Crisler had to have him on the field. By the end of the 1938 season, Tom Harmon was always the best player on the field and Fritz Crisler was looking forward to the 1939 and 1940 seasons with Harmon on his side! Michigan won 6 games, lost 1 and tied 1 game in 1938. They went 3-1-1 in the conference and finished in a tie for second place.
The Wolverines were looking to win a Big Ten Championship in 1939 because they had an outstanding team. The only problem was that Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois were pretty good too. It was going to be another tough conference season. Harmon played well all season, but it wasn’t good enough as the Wolverines posted an overall record of 6-2-0. Worse yet, the Maize and Blue finished fourth in the conference with a record of 3 wins and 2 losses. Tom Harmon had a record-setting season for Michigan and earned All-American honors in 1939. He totally out played the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner in a head-to-head matchup (Nile Kinnick of Iowa), but finished second in the voting. Thomas Dudley Harmon had more work to do at Michigan.
Harmon returned to Michigan for his senior year in 1940. Tom Harmon was a human highlight reel starting with the first game against California. He ran and passed his way through the game that ended in a 41-0 win for the Wolverines. Michigan won their first five games of the 1940 season and only the Michigan State game (21-14) was close. Unfortunately, a trip to Minnesota, where Fritz Crisler used to coach, was the next game on the schedule.
Fritz Crisler had lost his first two games to the Gophers and everyone knew that this game was for the Big Ten Championship and possibly the national championship as well. It was a tough game from start to finish, but the Gophers won by a score of 7-6. The difference in the game was a missed point-after-touchdown kick by Tom Harmon. The talented Harmon won all kinds of individual awards in college football, but he always said that he would have traded it all for that one extra point and a Big Ten Championship. Michigan ended the 1940 season with an outstanding record of 7-1-0. They finished with a record of 3 wins and 1 loss and second place in the Big Ten.
Yes, today was a very sad day in Michigan Football history in 1990. Tom Harmon set a high standard for all Michigan Men who followed him at Michigan. He was a self-less player who did everything he could to win games for the Wolverines. He is truly a Michigan legend. Of course, he served his country honorably and bravely in World War II. Please take a moment today to remember the immense contributions that Thomas Dudley Harmon made to Michigan Football. May he always rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
Notes- the third link on today’s post is a photo gallery of Tom Harmon from the Bentley Library – check it out! The fourth link is a YouTube Harmon Highlight Tribute. Link number five is his last game at OSU – with the Buckeye standing ovation! Believe me, that will never happen again!
Who holds the record for the longest kickoff return in Michigan football history?
Special team star Seth Smith is the record holder for a Michigan kickoff return thanks to a 100-yard effort against Wisconsin in 1994. Michigan could have used a couple more touchdowns from Seth since the Badgers won the game by a score of 31-19. At least he gave the Homecoming crowd something to cheer about!
When did the Wolverines play the first night game in Michigan Football history?