For one member of the 2012 Michigan football team, that’s
exactly what he’ll be getting this fall, the chance to honor former U.S.
President Gerald Ford by donning his No. 48 jersey for the season.
When Michigan made a decision to hang up the last of its five retired
uniforms in 1994, Ford’s No. 48 was among the immortalized numbers.
Ford is one of just three former U.S. Presidents to play college football — the others were Ronald Reagan (Eureka (Ill.) College) and Dwight Eisenhower (Army) — and was named team MVP as a linebacker in 1934.
For 18 years, the honored Wolverines numbers stayed retired, hanging in
Schembechler Hall and trapped in a numerical quarantine. That quarantine
will be lifted for the season, when the university starts putting
retired numbers into circulation as a designated
“Michigan Football Legend.”
“That is something we’re doing a lot of thinking about, and we’re doing
that,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke recently on 94.5 WJOX-FM in Birmingham,
Ala. “We’re honoring Desmond Howard now every year with one of our
players who really deserves it. (This year) that’s
Roy Roundtree wearing No. 21.
“We’re going to do the same with Gerald Ford’s jersey here this year.”
Howard’s No. 21, worn by Junior Hemingway last season, has not been
officially retired by Michigan. Tom Harmon (98), Bennie Oosterbaan (47),
the Wistert Brothers (11), Ron Kramer (87) and Ford have been retired.
The commemorative No. 48 uniform, like the No. 21 Howard jersey, will
feature a football legends patch on the upper left chest to honor the
former Michigan greats.
“I think it’s a much better way to memorialize and honor those folks,”
Michigan AD Dave Brandon told The Detroit News. “In making the decision in how to do this
going forward, I have consulted with people who follow the program and
consider themselves experts. I would simply
say, ‘Name the numbers and the players that have been retired.’ They
may name one or two, but they can’t name all five.
“The jerseys are displayed in a dusty cabinet in Schembechler Hall, and
it just makes no sense to retire numbers. The rosters are large, and we
need the numbers. The other thing we can’t show people yet is we’re
going to create in the soon-to-be renovated Schembechler
Hall is this new ‘Legends Area’. It will be spectacular. It won’t be a
walk-in whenever you want, but from time to time it will be open for
“But make no mistake, this is not something we’re going to do every year. We want it to remain as special as a retired jersey.”
The university has yet to announce which player will wear Ford’s number this fall.