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October 6, 2017 – Happy Birthday Calvin O’Neal

Posted on October 6, 2017 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to wish happy birthday to a Michigan Wolverine All-American named Calvin O’Neal. According to the 1975 Michigan Football Media Guide, Calvin O’Neal was born on this day in Osceloa, Arkansas. When he was young, Calvin’s family moved to Saginaw, Michigan. He became an outstanding football player at Saginaw High School. O’Neal’s football achievements got Bo Schembechler’s attention. So, Bo convinced Calvin to attend Michigan. The rest, as they say, is history!

Calvin O’Neal arrived in Ann Arbor in the fall of 1973, He did not play a down as a freshman and failed to earn a letter. However, I am sure he paid attention in practice and team meetings. He also did what he had to do in the classroom so that he could be ready to contribute more in 1974.

Apparently, Calvin learned his lessons well. He started three games in 1974 and helped Michigan win ten of eleven games. O’Neal earned his first varsity letter in 1974. More importantly, the Wolverines finished the Big Ten season with a record of 7-1-0 and won a share of the conference championship.

Calvin earned a starting job as a wide linebacker on Bo’s defense in 1975. He started twelve games and led the team with a record-setting 151 tackles. Yes, he was a force to be reckoned with for opposing offenses. O’Neal’s stellar play earned him a second varsity letter. He was also named first team All-Big Ten. The Wolverines posted an overall record of 8-2-2 and finished second in the conference that year with a record of 7 wins and 1 loss.

In 1976, Co-Captain Calvin O’Neal was on some pre-season All-American lists. He continued to be a “tackling machine” for the Wolverines. O’Neal broke his own record by totaling 153 tackles for the 1976 season. Calvin  repeated as an All-Big Ten player and added All-American honors to his Michigan resume.

Calvin O'Neal Michigan Football 1976 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Calvin O’Neal finished his career as a Co-Captain, All-American and All-Big Ten player in 1976. Oh, by the way, he was a Big Ten Champion to boot! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Michigan won ten of twelve games and tied for the Big Ten Championship in 1976. In fact, the Wolverines spent eight weeks as the top ranked team in the country until they were upset at Purdue by a score of 14-16. The season ended on a low note as the Maize and Blue footballers lost to Southern California (6-14) in the Rose Bowl.

Calvin O’Neal’s name is still in the Michigan Football Record Book because of some important Wolverine football “firsts.”

  • Calvin O’Neal was the first Michigan defender to record over 150 tackles in one season. He ended the 1975 campaign with 151 – a new Michigan record!
  • O’Neal is the first, and only, Michigan Man to record 24 tackles in one game. He knocked down 24 Purdue Boilermakers on November 6, 1976.
  • Calvin became the first Michigan defender to record over 150 tackles in back-to-back seasons in 1976 when he finished the year with 153.
  • O’Neal finished his career as the first Michigan Wolverine to record 378 career tackles.
  • Calvin was the first man to record 16 double digit tackle games in Michigan Football history.

Calvin O’Neal left Ann Arbor with his head held high. He was a three-time letterman, a two-time Big Ten champion and All-Big Ten performer as well as an All-American in 1976. Not too many men left The University of Michigan  with a resume as impressive as Calvin O’Neal’s. That’s why today is a great day to remember the career of Calvin O’Neal. Please take a moment to appreciate his contributions to Michigan Football. Thanks for the memories Calvin. I hope you have a very “Happy Birthday” today! Go Blue!





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