Lytle: A Final Farewell

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University of Michigan associate athletic director Bruce Madej will regularly offer his view on different topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. This is the first of those blogs.

If this were only a sports story, one would start, "A packed house jammed into Grace Lutheran Church this morning in Fremont, Ohio ..."

Unfortunately, this isn't a sports story; it is a farewell to one who we can easily define as a true Michigan Man.

The Grace Lutheran Church was "standing room only" as families, teammates and a plethora of friends paid their respects to Rob Lytle at his memorial service in Fremont today (Wednesday, Nov. 24).

His days as a football player at Fremont Ross High School, the U-M and with the Denver Broncos are legendary. But what can't be looked up by going through the stats and game stories are what made Lytle a tough, team-oriented player that created a humble, giving character after he hung up his cleats.

Even in death Rob Lytle was a team player, donating his organs to the University of Michigan.

He played halfback for Bo Schembechler in 1976 and placed third in the Heisman Trophy voting, only to be moved to fullback in his senior season. Bobby Thompson from the Denver Broncos said at the service, "All he did was talk about team goals while he was in the pros."

Tony Gant said, "Rob never told me what to do; he just helped me do it."

Gant gave an eloquent speech at the service. After all, he was another Fremont Ross great who came to Michigan in the 1980s to star as a defensive back.

"When I was a 'star' quarterback in high school, I was one of those players who thought I could do it all. I didn't need to throw the ball, just give it to me," said Gant. "Throw the ball? In fact, I though third and 36 was a running down.

"Rob heard how I was playing and when he got back to town, he called me and all he wanted to do was just played catch, throwing the football around as he tried to improve me."

Gant told a story about how Lytle was getting some grief for not pushing Tony to attend Michigan.

"Rob never told me to go to Michigan when I was being recruited," said Gant. "He told me when I would make the decision, I would make the decision I knew was right for me."

When Gant was ready to leave Michigan after his freshman year, he called Lytle.

"Rob took me to the track and we worked out over the summer and I watched how he prepared and worked," said Gant. "I wasn't mentally prepared to play football at Michigan, and all he did was work with me to get better."

When Gant broke his leg in 1984, Schembechler reminded him about Lytle's toughness, going into the training room and chiding him that Lytle wouldn't be in here. "Bo measured your toughness by Lytle," added Gant.

Lytle was tough, yet empathy and sympathy (and sarcasm) made him the man his friends will remember.

Rob Lytle, Rest in Peace, November 12, 1954-November 20, 2010

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4 Comments

In over thirty years of following Michigan football, Rob Lytle remains one of my all-time favorite players.
He embodied the spirit of Bo Schembechler's Wolverines, both on and off the field.

He was truly (and always will be) a "Michigan Man".

The University of Michigan has lost a great person in Rob Lytle.
The impact he left in Fremont, Ohio, Ann Arbor, and Denver will forever hold strong to anyone that knew or followed his exploits.

Rest in peace, Rob.

Rob was a hero of mine when i played hs football at Clio. May God see it fit for him to stand next to Bo.

I had the opportunity to meet Rob at a book signing for "100 years Michigan Football" here in Columbus about 15 years ago. He spent a least five minutes talking with me regarding UM football and how I was born a Buckeye but Wolverine by choice and what it was like living in Central Ohio. What a very nice, generous man he was. I will never forget that day. My sympathy goes out to his family, friends and His Wolverine family.

Go Blue!

Lee McAllister | December 17, 2010 8:54 PM
I will never forget Rob Lytle or his family. I sat in Section 19, row 51. His uncle sat in section 18, row 52. After every touchdown Rob scored, his uncle would stand up, raise his arms and yell "YEAAAAAAA LYTLE!" And so would the 8000 or so people in sections 17, 18 and 19. All of us. He is one of the reasons I am a UM alumni. My family has been in the Big House since before they called it that...1969. But for this high school senior in 1975, Rob Lytle and his family MADE ME A MICHIGAN MAN. He will be missed, but his memory lives on forever.

Lee McAllister, LSA 1981 YEAAAAAA LYTLE!!

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