Tom Curtis Michigan Football 1969 | gobluefootballhistory.com Michigan Wolverine Football History

November 1, 2019 Happy Birthday Michigan Legend Tom Curtis

Posted on October 31, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

The purpose of today’s post is to wish a Happy Birthday to Michigan Legend Tom Curtis. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Thomas Newton Curtis was born on this day in Cleveland, Ohio. Curtis grew up in Aurora, Ohio where he became an outstanding high school football player. In fact, he was so good that he was an All-Ohio quarterback in 1965.

(Note – Tom Curtis (#25 above) was a converted quarterback who finished his career as an All-American defensive back for Bo Schembechler in 1969. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: Tom Curtis

Tom Curtis Michigan Football 1969 | gobluefootballhistory.com

Tom Curtis (#25) had an interception in Bo’s first game in 1969 against Vanderbilt. He also had 24 more in his career. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

“Do You Want to Be a Quarterback, or Do You Want to Play?”

Tom Curtis was recruited as a quarterback by Bump Elliott and his staff. However, that changed in his sophomore year when Michigan had a bigger need at safety. Initially, Tom wasn’t thrilled with the idea of changing positions, but he didn’t want to sit on the bench either. As it turned out, he made a smooth transition to safety. In fact, he had a record breaking season in 1967. Curtis knew a lot about quarterback play and he used his “inside” knowledge on defense. Tom Curtis intercepted 7 passes (3 in the Illinois game) in his first year on the varsity and made33 tackles. Curtis also broke up 5 passes and recovered a fumble. Of course, he earned a letter in his first season on the varsity.

Curtis returned in 1968 with a year of experience in the defensive backfield. He started all ten games and continued to be a playmaker on the Michigan defense. Once again, Tom set another interception record by picking off 10 enemy aerials. He also 41 tackles and broke up 5 more passes. Curtis gained a reputation in the league for his stellar play and earned first team All-Big Ten honors in 1968. He helped lead the Wolverines to an excellent record of 8 wins and 2 losses. They went 6-1-0 in the conference and finished in second place. Unfortunately, the 1968 season ended with a “thud” when top-ranked Ohio State blew out Michigan by a score of 50-14.


Played for Bo in 1969

I am sure that Tom Curtis loved playing for the likeable Bump Elliott, but new Michigan’s new Athletic Director, Don Canham, was looking to the future. Unfortunately, Bump Elliott was not going to be coaching at Michigan after the 1968 season. Elliott was “bumped” (pun intended) into an assistant athletic director’s job to make way for a Buckeye named Schembechler.

Spring football in April 1969 was pure torture for the Michigan Football team. Bo scared them all and ran off the ones who were not ready to commit to his system. Tom Curtis survived spring drills in 1969.

Tom’s Senior year was a lot like his Junior year at Michigan, except he was playing for Bo and not Bump. He helped avenge the ugly  loss to OSU in 1968 and became a champion when the Wolverines upset the hated Buckeyes (24-12) in November 1969. Michigan finished the 1969 season with a final record of 8 wins and 3 defeats. More importantly, they ended the season with a Big Ten record of 6-1-0 and shared the conference championship with the hated Buckeyes.

Tom Curtis Michigan All American 1969 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Tom Curtis came to Michigan as a quarterback and left as an All-American safety with a record-setting legacy. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Tom Curtis picked off 8 more passes in 1969 and made 49 more tackles. He had 6 more pass break ups which pushed his total to a record-setting 16 when his career ended. Curtis earned first team All-Big Ten honors for the second straight season. He was named to three All-American teams (United Press, Associated Press, and the Football News) as well.

Tom Curtis and Some Michigan Football “Firsts”

Tom Curtis is connected to some record-setting “firsts” in Michigan Football History. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Tom Curtis was on Bo Schembechler’s first Michigan team in 1969.
  • Curtis played on Bo’s first championship team in 1969 and became Bo’s first All-American defensive player.
  • Tom Curtis was the first man to intercept 7 passes in one season (1967) and 10 in 1968.
  • Curtis was the first Michigan Man to win the Frederick Matthaei Award for his outstanding work on the field and in the classroom in 1968.
  • Tom Curtis is also the first defensive back to record 16 pass break ups in a Michigan career.
  • Curtis also set the record for career interception yards with 431.
  • Finally, Tom Curtis is the first, and only, Michigan Man to record 25 interceptions in a career. His record still stands today!

Michigan Man – Tom Newton Curtis

Tom Curtis finished his Michigan Football career with twenty-nine starts, three varsity letters, a Big Ten Co-Championship and enough individual “honors” to fill a large trophy case. More importantly, Tom, and his teammates on the 1969 team, helped raised the bar for all Michigan Men who followed.

Today is a wonderful day to celebrate the Michigan Football legacy of Thomas N. Curtis. He made many significant contributions to the great tradition of Michigan Football. I hope that Tom Curtis has a very Happy “Maize and Blue” Birthday today. Go Blue!

To learn more about Tom Curtis check out the links below:



Part II. November 1, 2019 National Day Calendar Update: 


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