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August 30, 2013Since 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 3-4 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.
Rick Leach, quarterback (1975-78)
When a program is as steeped in tradition and excellence as Michigan's, a player who can claim he was the first ever to accomplish a specific feat for that program is exceedingly rare.
When Leach took the first snap of Michigan's 23-6 win over Wisconsin in 1975, he became the first true freshman to ever start at quarterback for the Wolverines.
He wasn't done breaking records either.
Leach started 48 consecutive games for the Wolverines, breaking Big Ten records for total touchdowns (82), total offense (6,460 yards), touchdown passes (48) and touchdown yards and passing yards (4,284).
As a freshman, Leach led the Wolverines to an 8-0-2 record heading into a showdown vs. Ohio State that would decide which team won the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl. With the score knotted at 14 late, Leach through a critical interception, and the Wolverines lost, 21-14.
As heartbreaking as the loss was, Leach used it for motivation moving forward.
Over the next three seasons, Michigan posted a 30-6 record, winning three Big Ten Championships and going to the Rose Bowl three consecutive seasons.
After the '75 loss to Ohio State, Leach never fell to the Buckeyes again, leading the Wolverines to three victories by a combined score of 50-9.
Leach was a three-time All-Big Ten performer. As a senior, Leach was an All-American in football and baseball (he led the Big Ten in batting average) and finished third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Dave Brown, safety (1972-74)
Brown was the prototypical stalwart safety, with 174 career tackles and nine interceptions. He also posted 526 career yards on punt returns, including three touchdowns (an 83-yarder vs. Navy in 1972, a 53-yarder vs. Michigan State in 1973 and an 88-yarder vs. Colorado in 1974).
After posting 73 tackles and three picks as a first-year starter in '72, Brown was voted first-team All-Big Ten.
He earned All-American honors as a junior and a senior, leading a defense that surrendered just 215.8 yards and 6.1 points per game.
Brown was inducted into the College Football Hall Of Fame in 2007.
Gordon Bell, tailback (1973-75)
Sharing ball-carrying responsibilities with Rob Lytle, Chuck Heater and Ed Shuttlesworth, Bell shined during a time when Michigan had one of the deepest, most talented offensive backfields in the country.
Despite the fact that so many backs were splitting carries, Bell went over the 1,000-yard mark in both 1974 and 1975, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior.
When his career was finished, Bell ranked second in Michigan program history with 2,902 rushing yards on 535 carries.
He currently ranks ninth on the all-time rushing list.