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Top 10 Michigan Football Players in History

Updated on September 20, 2014

They are he winningest program in college football history. Today, I rank the top 10 Michigan football players of all time?

10. Dan Dierdorf

He started the tradition of great offensive tackles at Michigan.

At Michigan, Dan Dierdorf was a consensus All-American in 1970 and assisted the team to a 25–6 record in his 3 years as a starter. The Wolverines were Big Ten Champions in 1969 and he made all-conference in 1969 and 1970. He remains the modern era standard for what a Michigan tackle should be for guys like Jumbo Elliott, Jon Jansen, Jake Long, and Taylor Lewan.

Dierdorf would go on to play 13 seasons in the NFL for the Cardinals. There he was a six time pro bowler and All-Pro. He is a member of the college football Hall of Fame and the pro football Hall of Fame.

9. Ron Kramer

He might be the most versatile athlete in Michigan history.

Ron Kramer starred as a two time All-American on the football team, but he was also a captain of the basketball team and a high jumper on the track team. Kramer's athleticism best fit at tight end, though he played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive end and kicker. Kramer's number 87 is one of five retired jerseys at Michigan.

Kramer went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL for Green Bay and Detroit. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978.

8. Bennie Oosterbaan

He was the first great receiver in school history.

A star receiver and defensive end in a time when the forward pass was still evolving, Bennie Oosterbaan united with quarterback Benny Friedman as a passing combination. As a sophomore in 1925, he led the Big Ten with eight touchdowns. That year, the Wolverines outscored their opponents 227–3. He is one of only two players at Michigan ever to receive consensus All-American honors three times.

Oosterbaan went on to be the head coach at Michigan for 11 seasons. He is the only coach in NCAA history to win a national championship in his first season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1954.

7. Benny Friedman

He was the first of many great Michigan quarterbacks.

As a sophomore, Benny Friedman became the starting quarterback and kicker midway through the year. He emerged as the first great passer in Michigan history and perhaps in all of college football for that matter. In 1925 and 1926, he led the Wolverines to consecutive 7–1 seasons and first place finishes in the Big Ten Conference. Against Indiana in 1925, Friedman accounted for 44 points, throwing for five touchdowns and kicking two field goals and eight extra points. The following year, he was a consensus All-American and MVP of the Big Ten.

Friedman went on to have a successful NFL career. He was inducted into the college Hall of Fame and pro football Hall of Fame.

6. Steve Hutchison

He quietly had one of the most productive careers of any player in school history.

While at Michigan, Steve Hutchison moved from defensive tackle to guard as a freshman. Hutchinson excelled as a four-year starter, and did not allow a sack during his final two seasons as a Wolverine. He was a two-year team captain, four-year All-Big Ten selection, Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year, and a two-time All-American.

Hutchison went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL for Seattle, Minnesota, and Tennessee. There he was a seven time pro bowler and All-Pro.

5. Anthony Carter

"AC" is still the measuring stick to which all other Michigan wide receivers are judged.

In four years at Michigan, Anthony Carter quickly established himself as one of the most productive receivers in school history. He relied on his speed to make plays and provided an effective counterpoint to coach Bo Schembechler's running game plan. In addition to his duties as a receiver, he was also the team's kickoff and punt returner for most of his career. Carter's game winning 45 yard touchdown reception as time expired against Indiana as a freshman set the stage for a dazzling career. The three-time All-American brought Bo Schembechler's offense into the modern era by averaging 19.0 yards per catch with 33 touchdowns. He holds the NCAA career record for highest average gain per play.

Carter went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL for Minnesota and Detroit. There he was a three time pro bowler. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

4. Rick Leach

He is the most productive quarterback in school history.

A four year starter at quarterback under Bo Schembechler from 1975-78, Rick Leach did everything a Michigan quarterback is supposed to do. He beat Ohio State three times, led Michigan to a share of the Big Ten championship three times, and started in the Rose Bowl three times. Leach shattered all Michigan's career passing, total offense and touchdown records. He set an NCAA record for most touchdowns accounted for and broke Big Ten records for total offense, total plays, and touchdown passes.

Leach went on to play professional baseball for 10 years.

3. Tom Harmon

"Old 98" was the first player in school history to win the Heisman trophy.

Joining the team in 1938, Tom Harmon made an instant impact on the offense. He made his name as a tailback in the single wing formation and also excelled as a kicker. Harmon rushed for 2,134 yards during his career at Michigan and completed 100 passes for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns, and scored 237 points. In his final football game against Ohio State, Harmon led the Wolverines to a 40–0 victory, scoring three rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns, four extra points, intercepting three passes, and punting three times for an average of 50 yards. In 1939 and 1940, he became the first and only player to lead the nation in scoring twice. In 1940 he won the Heisman trophy and Maxwell award.

Harmon spent his later years fighting in WWII and playing two seasons for the Rams. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1954.

2. Desmond Howard

He is one of the most electric return specialist in college football history.

During his three year college career at Michigan, Desmond Howard set or tied five NCAA and 12 Michigan records. He also led the Big Ten Conference in scoring with 138 points during the 1991 season on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award, earning first-team All-American honors. He captured 85 percent of the first place votes in balloting for the Heisman, the largest margin in history at that time. Each Michigan player to wear Howard's number 21 jersey will wear a patch recognizing him, and dress at a locker bearing a plaque with his name and time of tenure at Michigan.

Howard went on to be a first round pick in 1992 by Washington. In an 11 year professional career with five teams, he was a 2000 pro bowler, two time All-Pro, Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl XXXI MVP, and holds the league record for most punt return yards in a season.

1. Charles Woodson

He is still the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman trophy.

As a freshman in 1995, Charles Woodson was named the Big Ten freshman of the year and lead the team with five interceptions and eight takeaways. He split time as a cornerback, punt returner, and occasional wide receiver. In 1996, he set a school record with 15 defended passes. In his junior year, Woodson led the Michigan Wolverines to an undefeated season and a share of the national championship. That year he one the Jim Thorpe award, Bronko Nagurski award, and the last Heisman trophy winner not to play quarterback or running back. In three years at Michigan, he was a two time All-American and finished his college career with 18 interceptions and 30 passes defended.

Woodson went on to be a first round pick in 1998 by Oakland. In 17 seasons spent in Oakland and Green Bay, he has been an eight time pro bowler, seven time All-Pro, two time league interceptions leader, the 2009 NFL defensive player of the year, and Super Bowl champion.


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