From top: Tony Branoff, Pete Elliott, Mike Shatusky
Jan. 10, 2013
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
As we start the new year with great excitement and high expectations for our University of Michigan varsity teams, the time-honored tradition of remembering the individuals from the past is vitally important to what makes the University of Michigan so special.
Three men who played football and helped make the Wolverines successful passed away in the last few weeks -- Pete Elliott, Tony Branoff and Mike Shatusky. All were honored as members of a Hall of Fame, and in their own way, they all played important roles in Michigan athletics.
The Elliott name is synonymous with U-M athletics. Pete's older brother Bump was an All-American, a head football coach and administrator for U-M, and Pete's sons, Dave and Bruce, also played football for the Wolverines.
The Bloomington (Ill.) High School multi-sport star played three sports for the Maize and Blue from 1945 to 1948 and earned 12 varsity letters.
Elliott was captain of the 1946-47 basketball team. In 1947-48, he was the Wolverines' MVP and first team All-Big Ten guard.
His golf skills placed him in the record books in '48 as well! He finished runner-up for the Wolverines in the Big Ten Golf Championships.
But football is what we will all remember Pete for the most! The All-American was a defensive star and was the quarterback of the "Mad Magicians" backfield playing alongside brother Bump and Bob Chappuis. He led U-M to an undefeated season and a national championship in 1947, including the 49-0 shutout of Southern Cal in the'48 Rose Bowl.
Elliott made it to the Rose Bowl two more times as a head coach. In 1959 he took California to Pasadena with Joe Kapp as his quarterback, and in 1964 he coached Illinois to a 17-7 win over Washington behind a defense led by legendary linebacker Dick Butkus.
After he completed his coaching career, Elliott continued working in sports as the executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, from 1979 to 1996.
Pete Elliott was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Tony Branoff played a few years after Elliott and did something Elliott never accomplished. Branoff threw a touchdown pass the first time he touched the ball for Flint Central High School and then became the first sophomore in Michigan football history to be named the team's Most Valuable Player, in 1953.
Born in Macedonia, the stocky, hard-nosed running sensation found himself in the backfield and as a return specialist. The Chicago Cardinals signed him in 1956, but knee injuries kept him out of the NFL. He remained in Ann Arbor, where he enjoyed a 37-year career as the personnel director of Cushing Malloy Lithographers.
Tony was inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.
While Mike Shatusky didn't have the U-M honors Elliott and Branoff accumulated, he was still instrumental in the offensive backfield and as a return specialist in 1956 and 1957. He scored two touchdowns in one game against Iowa at Michigan Stadium in '56.
He went on to coach high school football in California but couldn't stay away from Michigan. After retiring from his job in public education, he worked at the U-M Golf Course until 2005 when a stroke set him back.
Mike earned his iconic sports status in 1982 when he was inducted in Michigan's Upper Peninsula Hall of Fame. He was a four-sport athlete at Menominee High School, where he was all-state in football and won four events in the 1948 U.P. Track Championships.
When one looks at the history of Michigan Athletics, it is Hall of Fame student-athletes like these we remember. Thank you, Pete, Tony and Mike, for the legacies you have left and for the role you played in helping build our great Michigan tradition.
May you all rest in peace.