Brandon's Blog: The Consummate Team Player
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MGOBLUE Merv Pregulman
MGOBLUE
Merv Pregulman
MGOBLUE

Dec. 19, 2012

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.

It's impossible for anyone to remember all the great names in University of Michigan athletic history.

However, there are some names we can never forget -- those special people who have not only meant so much to our University and athletics department, but also to the world around us.

When I learned recently that Merv Pregulman had passed away, I fondly remembered him as a great athlete, a generous philanthropist, and a terrific Michigan Man.

He was an All-American football player for the University of Michigan, who went on to play professional football with the Packers, Lions and New York Bulldogs. However, Pregulman was more than just a gridiron giant. He was the consummate team player on and off the athletic field.

"He was a leader in business, philanthropy and with his family," said Chattanooga Jewish Community Federation executive director Michael Dzik. "He cared deeply about all those things. We'd like to think we're not going to forget Merv for years to come."

Pregulman died on Nov. 29 at the age of 90. And for those who knew Merv, they will not forget this giant of a man.

His athletic accomplishments were many, but his life after sports was even better.

In high school, he was the captain of the all-state football team after a standout career at Lansing Central High School.

At U-M, he played guard, center and tackle, wherever head coach Fritz Crisler needed him. Beginning his sophomore season in 1941, he was an impact player at every position he played. Strong, fast and accurate, he could easily be a blocking force on the line. He had great hands and could catch any ball he touched. He had the speed to outrun opponents when he had a chance to carry the ball, and as a center, it was his uncanny ability to start the play with timely, coordinated snaps which was a critical part of Crisler's single-wing offense.

In 1941, he was named by the iconic sportswriter Grantland Rice as honorable mention All-American. In '42 he was part of an amazing offensive line known as the "Seven Oak Posts." In '43 he was named by Rice as his first-team All American at tackle; and he was also good enough at guard to receive All-American mentions by UPI and AP. He was a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers (seventh overall) in 1944.

Like many of the athletes of that era, Pregulman served in the armed services as a gunnery officer in the Navy on the USS Taluga -- a ship that was attacked and hit by a Japanese kamikaze plane.

Returning from the war, he played pro football and then went into business.

His father was a self-made millionaire in the Lansing area, and the apple didn't fall far from the tree with Merv. Working for Siskin Steel & Supply Company in Chattanooga, Merv eventually took over as president and chief executive officer in 1978 and tripled the company's annual revenue over the next 15 years.

During that time, Merv and his wife Helen worked to help the people of Chattanooga on a number of fronts.

Health care related charities and funding of the Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation were his family's major focus, but his varied activity among many charitable organizations led to Merv and Helen being honored as the top philanthropists in Chattanooga in 1997.

Even with all the efforts in Tennessee, Merv and Helen (also a U-M graduate) never forgot the University of Michigan.

They endowed a University of Michigan scholarship awarded to a student who has shown leadership ability, demonstrated a financial need, and is willing to make a commitment to work in the Jewish community after graduation.

Still, it was his love for U-M football that Michigan Athletics will always remember!

Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and U-M Hall of Honor for his play on the football field and eventually awarded the Gerald R. Ford Award in 2004 for excellence in scholarship, sport and society, Merv Pregulman's individual honors were secondary to his belief in the team concept.

As he did for Fritz Crisler, playing whatever role was required to help the Maize and Blue win, he played every position in life to help his team, family, business, and community become successful. What's comforting to know is his name will be remembered by the many individuals whose lives he touched.

Merv, thank you for your special life and the way you helped so many people in so many ways. May you rest in peace...

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