After two years of controversy and awkward numbers, the Michigan football team announced that its “Legends” jersey program would be retired.
The program — which honored Michigan’s five retired numbers by giving them to current Wolverines — unretired the jersey numbers of Gerald Ford (No. 48), Tom Harmon (98), Ron Kramer (87), Bennie Oosterbaan (47), and Albert, Alvin and Whitey Wistert (11). The program drew controversy from fans and program alumni.
“During the search process for our new football coach, I had a meeting with the Michigan football team and they expressed their feelings associated with wearing these legendary jerseys,” said Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett in a released statement. “At one end of the spectrum they are awed by the legacy of the men who wore them and at the other end of the spectrum, and as part of a team sport, they wondered why we would call attention to one of our team members.
“I brought this issue to our new head coach Jim Harbaugh. He agreed with me that it needed a review. I then talked to the families of these great Michigan players. I called them directly and laid out the paradox of seeing players as a team and the due respect to these individual great players.”
All five numbers will be retired in a joint ceremony before Michigan’s game against Ohio State, Nov. 28. 1991 Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard will also have his No. 21 retired in the ceremony.
“The right plan is to retire them and display them in Towsley Museum which is connected to Schembechler Hall,” Hackett said. “Because we don’t have the display area inside the stadium, we have found an area on the concourse where fans can see and honor these retired jerseys.”
Peppers a three-way player:
After having his much-anticipated freshman season cut short due to injury, redshirt freshman safety Jabrill Peppers may have a chance to return in a big way.
Regarded as one of the nation’s best athletes from his recruiting class, Harbaugh indicated Tuesday that Peppers may be used on offense, special teams and defense.
“There’s three ways that you can contribute,” Harbaugh said. “You can contribute offensively, defensively and on special teams. It’s rare that someone does offense, defense and special teams.
“It’s exciting when someone’s capable of doing that, it means they have some real gifts athletically and they’re really smart and sharp enough to understand three different systems.”
At Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey, Peppers rushed for 3,059 yards, passed for 92 yards and tallied 883 yards receiving. He also scored 60 touchdowns in three seasons on offense.
“If you have the capability athletically of doing that and you have the desire to do that, then we’ll explore it,” Harbaugh said. “Jabrill’s never struck me as someone who has ever (had) his head spin (on the field). He’s not one of those type of youngsters. He has a very tight grip of his mind, he’s very sharp and very focused.
“Nor have I seen him unconfident. He’s very confident in his abilities.”
Ball is in Norfleet’s court to return
Another potential three-way player is still considering if he’ll join the Wolverines at all in the fall. Former return man Dennis Norfleet was reportedly kicked off the team in June.
Though he has been granted permission to speak with Tuskegee University, among others, Harbaugh hopes Norfleet can return to Michigan.
“A plan was put into place for Dennis so he could accomplish all his goals athletically and academically (at Michigan),” Harbaugh said. “Our desire is that he gets his Michigan degree, and that plan hasn’t changed from our viewpoint.”