1. Tom Harmon
Hometown: Gary, Ind.
Career stats: 398 carries, 2134 rushing yards, 30 rushing touchdowns; winner of 1940 Heisman Trophy.
Best season: In 1940, Harmon carried the ball 191 times for 852 yards and 14 touchdowns, good enough to win the Heisman Trophy
Defining moment: In his final game at Michigan, Harmon led Michigan to a 40-0 victory at Ohio State, scoring three rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns and four extra points. When he left the field, the fans in Columbus gave him a standing ovation.
After Michigan: Drafted with the first pick by the NFL’s Chicago Bears, Harmon originally turned down professional football to star as himself in the movie Harmon at Michigan. But after joining the Army Air Corps as a pilot in World War II, he played two years with the Los Angeles Rams. He later went on to a successful broadcasting career.
His also had a son Mark, who would later play quarterback for UCLA before becoming a movie and TV star.
2. Mike Hart
Hometown: Syracuse, N.Y.
Career stats: 907 carries, 4440 yards, 34 touchdowns
Best season: Hart’s freshman season may not have been his best statistically, but it was definitely his biggest. His 1,445-yard line was really just a product of 10 games, and the then-freshman came out of nowhere to help lead his team to a Big Ten Championship.
Defining moment: We may have not seen Hart’s top moment yet, but he’s got a few. The most recent would be his 44-carry performance against Penn State’s top-ranked rush defense. He put the team on his shoulders and did his part to try and turn its fortune around after a dismal start to the season.
After Michigan: We’ll see.
3. Anthony Thomas
Hometown: Winnfield, Louisiana
Career stats: 924 carries, 4,472 yards, 55 rushing touchdowns (all records), 22 100-yard rushing games.
Best season: Thomas finished as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award after he ended his senior season in 2000 with 1,733 yards and 18 touchdowns on 319 carries. He averaged more than 144 yards per game that season.
Defining moment: Against Michigan State in 2000, Thomas rushed for 175 yards on 25 carries, and his two touchdowns set the Michigan career record for rushing scores. Sadly, what most fans remember about Thomas was his fumble against Northwestern later that season. Michigan looked to be in the clear after Wildcat running back Damien Anderson dropped a touchdown pass late in the game. But Thomas fumbled on the ensuing possession, and Northwestern scored the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left on the clock.
After Michigan: Drafted in the second round (38th overall) by the Chicago Bears in 2001, Thomas burst onto the NFL scene by gaining 1,183 yards and NFL Rookie of the Year honors. But he was ineffective in ensuing years and struggled with injuries after his rookie season. He has since bounced around the league, playing for the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints before landing with the Buffalo Bills prior to the 2006 season. He is currently second on the Bills’ depth chart at running back, behind rookie Marshawn Lynch.
4. Ronald Johnson
Career stats: 487 carries, 2,440 yards, 27 rushing touchdowns, 10 100-yard rushing games
Best season: In 1968, Johnson rewrote the Michigan record books. It was just the senior’s second season taking the majority of the carries for the Wolverines, and Johnson made the most of the opportunity. He registered his second 1,000-yard rushing season and set Michigan records for rushing yards in a game (347), in a season (1,391) and in a career (2,440). He finished the year with 19 touchdowns on 225 carries and placed sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Defining moment: During that 1968 season, Johnson set a Michigan record when he rushed for 347 yards against Wisconsin. His game against the Badgers had also been an NCAA record that has since been eclipsed.
After Michigan: Johnson was drafted in the first round by Cleveland Browns in 1969, but enjoyed his best seasons in the NFL from 1970-72 with New York Giants. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 1970 and 1972, the first 1,000-yard rushing seasons by a Giants’ back. Johnson stayed in the NFL for seven seasons and went to two Pro Bowls. This past year, he was named chairman of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
5. Tim Biakabutuka
Hometown: Longueuil, Quebec, Canada
Career stats: 472 carries, 2810 yards, 12 touchdowns
Best Season: In 1995, Biakabutuka carried the ball 303 times for 1,818 yards, still a Michigan single-season record. He also scored 12 touchdowns.
Defining moment: In his final game against Ohio State, Biakabutuka ran 37 times for 313 yards and scored a touchdown to lead Michigan to a 31-23 victory. His yardage stands as the second-highest single-game total in Wolverine history.
After Michigan: Drafted with the No. 8 pick by the Carolina Panthers, Biakabutuka battled injuries during his entire professional career, never living up to his potential. In six seasons with Carolina, he totaled just 2,530 yards and 14 touchdowns, rushing for just 718 yards and six scores in his best season (1999). Biakabutuka now runs a two-store jewelry chain in North Carolina, selling, among other designer brands, his own Christian-themed line of jewelry.