Today is a great day to remember a Wolverine All-American named James E. Pace. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, James Edward “Jim” Pace died on March 4, 1983. He was only forty-seven years old at the time of his death. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, he was working as a school administrator in California when he passed away.
(Note – James E. Pace (#43) is shown above with the 1957 Michigan Football team. He is seated in the first row – second man from the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Jim Pace was born on January 1, 1936 in Little Rock, Arkansas. However, he grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he became an outstanding high school athlete. Pace starred in football and track. He decided to continue his education and his athletic career at Michigan.
James E. Pace arrived in Ann Arbor in 1954. He spent his freshman year learning the Michigan “football system” and getting knocked around in practice by the upper classmen. At least the ones who could catch him! The varsity went 6-3-0 that year so they needed some help, but only if you were good! Jim Pace also ran track that first year to work on his speed and stamina.
Jim Pace did not start any games as a sophomore, but he played well enough to average 5.4 yards per carry in 1955. He also scored two rushing touchdowns and got a lot of touches on special teams as a punt and kickoff returner. So, Jim Pace was off to a solid start at Michigan. The Wolverines also had a strong season in 1955. Bennie Oosterbaan’s footballers won 7 games and lost 2. They finished third in the Big Ten Conference with a record of 5-2-0.
Things continued to go well for Michigan and Jim Pace in 1956. The Wolverines posted another record of 7 wins and 2 losses – and finished second in the Big Ten at 5-2-0. Jim Pace started seven games at left halfback and led the team in rushing with 498 yards. He scored two more touchdowns that year and continued his strong play on special teams.
Bennie Oosterbaan’s Wolverines came close to a Big Ten title in 1956, but the championship drought continued for one more year.
In 1957, it appeared that Michigan could contend for the league title that had eluded them since 1950. However, an early loss to Michigan State in game three put them behind in the conference race. Michigan won two straight conference games (Northwestern and Minnesota), but a tie against Iowa set them back again. All chances for a championship vanished after a one-point loss at Illinois (19-20). The Wolverines lost at home to Ohio State and finished the season with an overall record of 5 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie. They finished the conference season in sixth place with a record of 3-3-1. It was a disappointing season in Ann Arbor.
One of the few bright spots in the 1957 season was the stellar play of James E. Pace. The talented Pace was on the field a lot. He started all nine games and rushed for 664 yards on 123 carries which averaged out to 5.4 yards per carry. Pace logged the best game of his career in the season finale against Ohio State. He rushed for 164 yards against the Buckeyes and averaged 7.5 yards per carry! Pace also rushed for seven touchdowns in 1957. Jim Pace also caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. He returned 5 kickoffs for 114 yards and 8 punts for another 98 yards. Jim Pace gained a total of 998 yards for the season with his rushing, receiving and special team exploits.
James E. Pace was named Michigan’s MVP for the 1957 season. He was the first African-American at Michigan to be named the Big Ten MVP. Of course he earned All-Big Ten honors in that special year. More important, Jim Pace also became the first African-American running back at Michigan to earn All-American honors in 1957.
James E. Pace had a strong career at Michigan. He was an offensive machine who could carry the rock, throw it, catch passes, return kickoffs and run back punts. In three years, he totaled 2,343 yards with his outstanding play. He did a lot for the Wolverine football program and was the “first” to do some important things at Michigan:
So, today is a great day to honor the memory of James E. Pace and appreciate his contributions to the great history of Michigan Football. May Jim Pace continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
To read more about James E. Pace please check out the links below:
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