Our first breakdown will come out of the Schembechler Region of the Wolverine Legends Tournament. Voting will be open until midnight on 2/25/13. Check out the matchups and cast your votes below!
(1) Charles Woodson vs. (8) Jim Abbott
We start off with Charles Woodson, arguably the face of the Michigan football program over the last 20 years. Leading the Wolverines to the 1997 National Championship and winning the Heishman Trophy in the same year, this two-way star is one of the most decorated athletes in U of M history. Drafted fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders in 1998, Woodson has a very successful pro career as well, playing for the Raiders and Packers in his fifteen year career. You will not see a Heisman highlight reel without Woodson famously striking his pose against Michigan State in 1997.
He is an eight time NFL Pro Bowler, seven time All-Pro, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, and won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2011.
Next up is Jim Abbott, former Major League Pitcher. Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, Abbott is famously known as the pitcher born without a right hand. While at Michigan, he won the James E. Sullivan award for being the nation’s best amateur athlete in 1987. He was selected in the first round of the 1988 Draft by the California Angels. He was also part of the gold medal baseball team for the U.S. in the 1988 Olympic Games. Abbot no-hit the Cleveland Indians as a member of the Yankees in 1993. While he maybe was not as successful as some other Wolverine athletes, nobody can deny the inspirational story behind Abbot’s success. He is truly one of the “leaders and the best.”
Update: Charles Woodson advances with 96% of the vote!
(2) Tom Harmon vs. (7) Tim Biakabutuka
Tom Harmon is one of the greatest football players ever to step foot on campus at the University of Michigan. A tailback who was also a kicker, Harmon was a Heisman Trophy winner in 1940. He rushed for over 2000 yards in his career, with 1304 yards passing and 16 touchdown passes. Harmon could truly do it all.
“Number 98” had arguably the greatest performance of his Wolverine career in his final game against rival Ohio State in Columbus, scoring three rushing TD’s two passing TD’s, four extra points, three interceptions, and three punts for an average of 50 yards, something that surely will never be duplicated. It was such a rare feat of athleticism, that the Buckeye fans gave him a standing ovation after the game, something no Wolverine has experienced since then.
Tim Biakabutuka was one of the most memorable running backs to wear the Winged Helmet. Known as “Touchdown Tim”, Biakabutuka holds the Wolverines single season rushing record, going for 1818 yards in 1995. He is probably best known best for his 312 yard rushing game against Ohio State that same season. Biakabutuka was drated by the Carolina Panthers eighth overall in 1996. He was never really able to carry that momentum over to the NFL, playing in only 50 games in six seasons, but he will still be remembered forever amongst Michigan fans.
Update: Tom Harmon advances with 79% of the vote!
(3) Cazzie Russell vs. (6) Bill Freehan
Cazzie Russell is arguably the greatest Wolverine basketball player of all time. After all, the Crisler Center is dubbed “the house that Cazzie built.” He led the Wolverines to three straight Big Ten titles from 1964-66, and went to the Final Four in both the ’65 season, where they lost to Duke in the semi-finals, and ’66, where they lost to John Wooden’s UCLA team that was in the midst of a dynasty. In 1966, Russell averaged 30.8 points per game and won the National Player of the Year award. He went on to have a successful NBA career, winning a title with the Knicks in 1970 and being named an All-Star in 1972 with the Golden State Warriors. It’s a crime that he gets overlooked, but he is definitely one of the best college basketball players of all time.
Bill Freehan is well known in the state of Michigan in the game of baseball as a catcher. In 1961, as a member of the Wolverines, Freehan set the all-time Big Ten batting average record with a .585 in a single season, one that still stands to this day. He signed with the hometown Detroit Tigers in 1961 and went on to have a very successful MLB career. Freehan went to 11 straight All-Star games from 1964-75 and won the Gold Glove at his position from 1965-1969 consecutively. He won a World Series with the Tigers in 1968. He was one of the best catchers in the history of the game and represented the Wolverines well.
Update: Cazzie Russell advances with 92% of the vote!
(4) Anthony Carter vs. (5) Benny Friedman
Anthony Carter or “Snake” as he was known, was one of the best Wide Receivers in Michigan football history. He was a three time All-American and held several receiving and return records for the Wolverines (some of which were broken by a guy over in the Berenson division). He finished as high as 4th place in Heisman trophy voting during his career. In a program that was primarily a running team under Bo Schembechler, Carter was the big play deep threat that brought immense balance to the offense. He had 141 catches for 2681 yards with 33 touchdowns in his Wolverine career. He started out in the USFL for the Michigan Panthers, but was drafted in the 12th round on the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings in 1985. He was a three time Pro Bowler (88’,89’,90’) and finished his career with the hometown Detroit Lions.
Benny Friedman was one of the first great passing quarterbacks of his era. In a time where players had to be on both sides of the ball, Friedman was the starting quarterback and kicker for the Wolverines. He also played defensive back. Friedman led the Wolverines to consecutive Big Ten Championships in 1925-26. His signature performance came against Indiana, where he scored 44 points by himself with five touchdown passes and kicking for two field goals and eight extra points. In the NFL, he became a pioneer of the passing game. During his days, the pigskin was rounder and much more difficult to throw, but he was able to succeed and revolutionized the game. He threw for 20 touchdowns in 1929, something that would not happen again until 1942. In 2005, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Update: Anthony Carter advances with 73% of the vote!
So who will move on in this region? YOU decide! Remember to get your votes in by Monday, February 25th at 11:59pm. Voting is unlimited so make sure you represent!