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August 14, 2013
Countdown To Kickoff: Day 18
Since the final play of the Wolverines' Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina, Michigan coaches, players and fans alike have eagerly awaited the start of the 2013 season - and another chance to win the program's first Big Ten Championship since 2004.
Now, with the calendar turning over to August, the season is just around the corner.
To count down to the season, The Wolverine is naming the best player to ever wear each jersey number, No. 99 to No. 1.
We'll highlight 3-5 jerseys a day, all the way to the morning of Aug. 31, the day the Wolverines finally kick off the season at The Big House against Central Michigan.
George Lilja, center (1977-80)
Lilja is on the list at No. 59, because that is the jersey he wore for the vast majority of his career. But for one brief moment in 1980 - his final, and best, season with the Wolverines - he donned a different number.
That season, the Wolverines steamrolled Purdue, 26-0. Lilja was mauling Boilermakers up front, helping to open running lanes all afternoon. Michigan rushed 59 times for 263 yards and two scores.
During one particularly dominating block, a Purdue lineman grew so frustrated, he ripped at LIlja's jersey, tearing it to shreds. Without a backup jersey on the sideline, the equipment team quickly came up with a solution: use defensive lineman Doug James' jersey. Lilja finished the game with the No. 73 on his chest and back.
That season, Lilja earned first-team All-American honors from the Walter Camp Foundation, as well as first-team All-Big Ten honors.
He started 24 consecutive games for the Wolverines - through the 1979 and 1980 seasons - and served as team co-captain with legendary receiver Anthony Carter in 1980. As captain, Lilja led Michigan to a 10-2 record, including an undefeated record in the Big Ten and a 23-6 win over Washington in the Rose Bowl.
Rob Renes, defensive tackle (1996-99)
Renes first cracked the starting lineup as a redshirt sophomore in 1997 and had a breakout season during the Wolverines' undefeated, national championship run, finishing with 47 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, four sacks and two pass breakups.
Renes continued to build on that success, finishing with 149 tackles and 23.0 tackles for loss.
Renes, who was voted team captain for the 1999 season, helped lead the Wolverines to a 10-2 record and a win over Alabama in the Orange Bowl.
He was named first-team All-American has a senior.
Maynard Morrison, center (1929-31)
Morrison was a do-everything player for the Wolverines, playing center, linebacker, fullback, defensive back and just about anything the coaches asked of him during his tenure.
Then-Michigan coach Harry Kipke once called Morrison "the finest linebacker [he] ever saw," adding, "No one ever got past him."
Famous sportswriter Grantland Rice - who penned the Four Horsemen Of Notre Dame story - once remarked, "Morrison usually picked [the ball carrier] up bodily and hurled him back into the breach in the ball. He was content with merely smacking the ball carriers against the ground as they had never been smacked before."
At a reported 210 pounds, Morrison was a bruising runner and defender during a time when most athletes were not nearly that size.
After proving himself as a fullback in 1929, Morrison moved to center in 1930, due to lack of depth along the line. He earned All-Big Ten honors and "was just about everything a coach could ask for in a center," according to the Associated Press.
He stayed at center in 1931, earning first-team All-American honors.