Alumni Spotlight: Dan Dworsky

May 1, 2014

Dan Dworsky was a four-year starter for Fritz Crisler's football team from 1945 through 1948. He played linebacker, fullback and center as a key contributor on the undefeated 1947 and 1948 football team that won consecutive national championships. Dworsky won six varsity letters at Michigan, four in football and two in wrestling competing in the heavyweight division. He played professional football for the Los Angeles Dons of the All-American Football Conference in 1949 before embarking on a career as an architect. Dworsky designed Crisler Arena and had the idea to put the block M on the east side of the bleachers inside Michigan Stadium.

Q. How does a high schooler in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, end up in Ann Arbor for school?

A. I grew up in the Twin Cities and my brother went to Minnesota, so I thought that's where I would end up. When I was in Sioux Falls, however, there was a man who owned the town newspaper, radio station and department store who had attended Michigan. He made a few phone calls and arranged for me to visit Ann Arbor. On that trip I met legendary coach Bennie Oosterbaan and Bob Ufer, and after that, the decision was made. I would be coming to Michigan to play football.

Q. What was it like to play during some of the finest times in Michigan football history?

A. We had some incredible players and coaches! Guys like Walter Teninga, Dick Kempthorn, Bob Chappuis, Dominic Tomasi. Coach Crisler had developed the "platoon system," utilizing different players for offense and defense. It was probably a good thing because I was able to reclaim a starting position on defense at linebacker after being replaced as the starting fullback due to illness.

Q. How did you end up wrestling under coach Cliff Keen?

A. My teammate on the football team, George Chiames, had gone out for wrestling. One day, when I was in the field house working out, George asked if I would be interested in wrestling. I had never tried the sport, but that next week I fooled around for an hour or so wrestling with one of the heavyweights. I didn't think much of it until a couple of days later when Cliff Keen came over, put his arm around my shoulder, and told me that I was wrestling that weekend against Indiana.

Dan Dworsky

Q. Wow, nothing like trial by fire! How did the first meet go?

A. Well, the starting heavyweight had contracted the mumps, so I didn't have anyone to train against. We drove down to Bloomington and I watched the lighter weights wrestle to try to pick up any helpful techniques. One of the keys was to stand near the edge of the mat so that if my opponent tried to take me down, I would be outside the ring and the ref would have to blow his whistle. That helped a bit. I lost the match, but I didn't get pinned.

Q. So many great stories, but what is your fondest memory while at Michigan?

A. All of the athletic experiences were great, but from an academic standpoint, the course work that I took in architecture and art & design led to my eventual career as an architect. I had great professors who helped me discover my passion. The mentoring and tutelage I received during my undergraduate years eventually led to me receiving the opportunity to design Crisler Arena.

Q. How did you get the opportunity to build Crisler Arena?

A. I returned to Ann Arbor for a reunion, and Fritz asked if I would be interested in designing the new arena. I definitely was, and I did my homework to prepare for the interview by studying a recently completed UCLA facility as well as the Los Angeles Lakers arena. It must have sounded like I knew what I was doing because I was offered the job. It means so much to me to have been a part of the Michigan Athletics history as both a student-athlete and as the architect of Crisler Arena. The new renovations to Crisler are breathtaking, and I am happy to see it stand as one of the premier college basketball arenas in the country.

The recently created Office of Alumni Engagement strives to foster a community, recognize the holistic student-athlete and honor the great Michigan Athletics history. This alumni spotlight illustrates the impact that our alumni are having around the world and how they stay engaged with Michigan.

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