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August 13, 2013

Countdown To Kickoff: Day 19

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.

No. 62

Julius Franks, offensive guard (1941-42)

Franks, a native of Macon, Ga. whose family moved to the Detroit suburbs when he was a child, attended Michigan after graduating from Hamtramck High School. Franks was just the third African-American football player in Wolverine history, after George Jewett and Willis Ward.

Franks arrived in Ann Arbor five years after Ward's career and, since freshmen were not permitted to play football at the time, joined the team the next year.

As a junior in 1942, Franks was a member of a dominant offensive line, nicknamed The Seven Oak Posts, which also included All-Americans Al Wistert, Merv Pregulman and Elmer Madar.

Franks also earned All-American honors that season, and is regarded by some as the first African-American player in Michigan history to earn the distinction. (Though some contend that Ward earned All-American honors in 1935. It is disputed.)

Unfortunately, Franks contracted tuberculosis between his junior and senior seasons, and was hospitalized for over two years. Coach Fritz Crisler and star Tom Harmon - a senior when Franks was a freshman - were frequent visitors.

Franks did not return to football after the illness. But he did return to school, finishing his degree in science in 1947 and eventually graduating from the University Of Michigan School Of Dentistry.

No. 61

Lloyd Heneveld, offensive guard (1947-49)

Once Heneveld joined the Michigan football team before the 1947, he didn't experience a loss for more than two seasons.

As a reserve player in '47, Heneveld witnessed one of the most dominant seasons in program history, as the Wolverines outscored their opponents by an averaged score of 39.4 to 5.3 points per game. Michigan scored 35 or more points seven times, and 49 or more points five times. On the other end, the defense allowed just two teams to score double-digit points: Stanford (which U-M beat 49-13) and Northwestern (which U-M beat 49-21).

The Wolverines won the Associated Press National Championship.

The next season, Heneveld cracked the starting lineup, playing at right and left guard.

The Wolverines continued their dominant ways, winning a second straight national championship with a 9-0 record, capped by a 13-3 win over Ohio State in Columbus.

As a senior, Heneveld earned All-Big Ten honors, while the Wolverines took a step back, going 6-2-1 on the season.

No. 60

Mark Messner, defensive tackle (1985-88)

Messner, a four-year starter at defensive tackle, twice record 20 or more tackles for loss in a single season, with 26 in 1988 (which ranks second in single-season program history) and 20 in 1987 (which ranks eighth in single-season program history).

Three of his seasons rank in the top 15 in single-season sack total, too. He tallied 11 in 1985 (second in program history), 10 in 1987 (seventh) and eight in 1988 (13th).

Messner finished his career with an impressive 70 tackles for loss and 36 sacks, numbers that no player has come close to touching. Former defensive end Brandon Graham (2006-09) is second in program history in tackles for loss (56) and sacks (29.5), well behind Messner.

As a frame of reference, the NCAA record for career tackles for loss is 75, just five more than Messner (Western Michigan's Jason Babin, 2000-03). The NCAA record for career sacks is 44, eight more than Messner (Arizona State's Terrell Suggs, 2000-02).

Messner earned an incredible four first-team All-Big Ten honors - one of just two Wolverines to accomplish the feat (Steve Hutchinson).

As a senior, he earned consensus first-team All-American honors.

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