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August 17, 2013

Countdown To Kickoff: Day 15

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. 50

Otto Pommerening, tackle (1927-28)

A native of Ann Arbor, Pommerening became the first player in Big Ten conference history to play every play of every game over the course of an entire season (1927), despite the fact that he suffered a head injury early in the year.

Pommerening - 5-11, 178 - was lauded for his size, being declared one of the biggest and most physical offensive linemen in the conference.

In 1928, Pommerening as a unanimous All-American and finished fourth in the voting for the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award, given to the Big Ten MVP. His teammates voted him the Michigan MVP on the season.

Pommerening hoped to play for Michigan in 1929. However, he was ruled ineligible because he had played sparingly for Oklahoma A&M during the 1926 season.

No. 49

Bob Chappuis, halfback (1942, 1946-47)

Chappuis showed flashes of his eventual greatness as a sophomore in 1942. In his first game, a 9-0 win over Great Lakes Naval Academy, he completed seven passes for 80 yards and rushed for 49 yards. Back then, seven completed passes was impressive.

He finished the season with 358 passing yards, 220 rushing yards and 30 receiving yards. After the season, he suspended his football and academic career to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Force's World War II effort as a lieutenant.

When he came back to the field for the 1946 season, he was a multiple-sport star. He returned to Ann Arbor in time for the join the baseball team, where he played outfield and led the team in batting average.

As a junior in 1946, he broke the Big Ten's total offense record (set by former Northwestern quarterback Otto Graham), with 1,284 yards, 734 through the air, 501 on the ground and 49 receiving. All that while playing the second half of the season with a broken wrist, which he kept a secret from the coaches and trainers until the end of the season.

The next year, Chappuis broke his own record, compiling 1,405 total offensive yards (976 passing yards, 544 rushing yards) and scored 16 touchdowns.

In his final game, he racked up 307 total yards in a 21-0 win over Ohio State, which set a single-game program record that would stand for 20 years.

After the season, Chappuis earned unanimous All-American honors. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, losing out on the award to Notre Dame quarterback Johnny Lujack.

Chappuis was inducted into the College Football Hall Of Fame in 1988.

No. 48

Gerald Ford, center (1932-34)

Ford, who went on to become the 38th President of the United States, had a wild ride in his first two seasons with the Wolverines.

Over the 1932 and 1933 seasons, Michigan compiled a 15-0-1 record and won two national championships and conference championships.

As a captain in 1934, Ford witnessed the Wolverines' fall from grace. The team went 1-7 on the year.

But the game they won was a doozy. Before traveling to Ann Arbor for a nonconference game, Georgia Tech officials informed Michigan that the Yellow Jackets would not play the game if Willis Ward, an African-American and Ford's best friend on the team, played.

Ford threatened to boycott the game, but Ward personally asked him to play. The Wolverines won 9-2.

Ford was voted team MVP after the season.


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