April 27, 2011
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on different topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All of 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.
Jim Mandich was the consummate M Man. He didn't want to miss a down of football when it involved his Michigan Wolverines or his Miami Dolphins. He loved football, Michigan and the Miami Dolphins. The only thing he loved more was his family. On Tuesday night (April 26) at the age of 62, Mandich passed away after a long battle with cancer.
When we heard he was placed in hospice care this past weekend, we knew the fight was coming to an end. Oh, we knew Jim was going to continue to fight ... but it was inevitable that the same dreaded disease that recently took Vada Murray from us was going to take another one of our favorite Wolverine players.
To know Jim as a football player was fun. To know Jim as a businessman and leader was amazing. To know Jim as he battled cancer was unbelievable.
His accomplishments as a player will be celebrated for countless years beyond his lifetime. A Michigan All-American, member of the College Football Hall of Fame, great Miami Dolphin, Mad Dog on radio and an extraordinary businessman.
There isn't one word you can use to describe Jim. He was hard-nosed, tough, loving, contentious, funny, enjoyable, charismatic, giving -- just a super guy who played on an undefeated NFL team and won Super Bowls in the pros. In Ann Arbor, he was one of the all-time great Wolverine players, gaining All-America, Michigan Hall of Honor and College Football Hall of Fame honors. And, more importantly, he was elected captain by his teammates. There is no greater honor for a Michigan Football player.
He could be crass, he could be playful, and he was definitely opinionated. He didn't sugarcoat anything. When he became your friend, he stood by you at every step.
Of course, you did have to endure a few barbs -- no matter who you were.
He was married to his sweetheart, Bonnie. He called her "Big Momma" on his radio show and always said how he "loved watching her drive the family truck." Bonnie is not big by any means, but the love of his life had to learn to live with his "way with words" during their 35 years of marriage.
Even Bo Schembechler was in for it when Mandich came to town. Jim was Bo's first team captain and MVP, and I think Mandich had a certain pleasure getting back at Bo from his playing days at Ann Arbor. The banter between the two throughout the years was something both Bo and Jim enjoyed.
Mandich had a great sense of humor and he never talked about himself. In fact, he was almost too self-deprecating. When someone asked him to talk about his playing days, he laughed and said, "Who would want to listen to ancient history?"
Jim never tried to be something he wasn't. When he was battling cancer, he left his talk show but traveled with the Dolphins to work the games on radio. He was losing weight, he was looking thin, but he still was talking big and he was still fun to be around. I recently had a phone conversation with Jim, and despite his illness, Jim's passion and love for Michigan Football and support for Michigan Athletics never wavered.
Just a few weeks ago, Mandich went to Augusta, Ga., to watch the Masters. Even cancer couldn't make Mandich something he wasn't.
Jim Mandich will be long remembered and he will be truly missed.
Our sympathies go out to his wife, Bonnie, and their sons, Mike, Mark and Nick.