Today’s post celebrates the “Happy Birthday” of a Wolverine named Jeff Backus. According to the 2000 Michigan Football Media Guide, Jeffrey Carl Backus was born on this date in Midland, Michigan. Jeff’s family moved to the Atlanta area when he was young. He grew up to be an outstanding athlete at Norcross High School just outside of Atlanta. He starred on the football and baseball teams. However, football was his best sport since he earned USA Today All-American honors as a high school senior. When it came time to think about his future, Jeff decided to go to Michigan. His mother, father and grandfather all graduated from Michigan, so it was a “no brainer” to head to Ann Arbor in 1996.
(NOTE- Jeff Backus (#79) is shown above with the 2000 Big Ten Co-Champion Michigan Wolverines. He is seated in the first row – fifth man from the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Jeff did not see any game action in 1996. Instead, Coach Lloyd Carr decided to redshirt young Backus and get him to the weight room. It turned out to be a good move for Jeff and for Michigan.
A bigger, stronger, Jeff Backus was ready to contribute in 1997 and that’s exactly what he did! Jeff started all twelve games at left tackle on Michigan’s National Championship team. He earned his first varsity letter and was named All-Big Ten second team by the coaches and the media. Jeff’s career was definitely off to a great start!
In 1998, Jeff Backus was one of the fixtures on the offensive line. He continued to play at a high level and helped Michigan earn a share of another Big Ten Championship. Jeff earned second team All-Conference honors for his efforts and won his second football letter.
Jeff returned for his third season of eligibility in 1999 and helped Michigan post an excellent record of 10 wins and 2 losses. The Wolverines did slip to a tie for second place in the Big Ten Conference. Jeff earned his third varsity letter and was named first team All-Big Ten for the second time. He also earned the Hugh Rader, Jr. Award as Michigan’s best lineman in 1999.
Backus returned for his final season in 2000. Once again, he played extremely well and helped Michigan win a share of their third Big Ten Championship in four years. The Wolverines ended the season with a final record of 9 wins and 3 losses and posted a Big Ten record of 6-2. Jeff won the Meyer Morton Award for his outstanding performance in Spring Drills and also repeated as the Hugh Rader Award winner. Interestingly, he shared the award with Steve Hutchinson and Maurice Williams.
Jeff is also connected to some interesting, and important, Michigan Football “firsts.”
So, Jeff Backus left Michigan with 49 starts, 4 varsity letters, 3 Big Ten Championship rings and plenty of awards and recognition from Michigan and the Big Ten. Yes, he had an outstanding career and left Ann Arbor with his head held very high! Jeff went on to a very successful NFL career with the Detroit Lions. Today is certainly a great day to appreciate his contributions to the great history that is – Michigan Football. Happy Birthday Jeff and Go Blue!
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