Sep 7, 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan Athletic Department officially recognized the Wolverines' first Heisman Trophy winner, Tom Harmon, as a Michigan Football Legend today (Saturday, Sept. 7) during a pregame ceremony at the Michigan-Notre Dame football game.
Senior/junior quarterback Devin Gardner (Detroit, Mich./Inkster) will wear the famed No. 98 jersey for the remainder of his career, switching from No. 12. A Michigan Football Legend patch over the left upper chest will be affixed to the No. 98 jersey worn by Gardner and all other future players donning Harmon's jersey number.
"Our program is built on the traditions and legacies of those who have come before us," Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke said. "I think it's fitting for a quarterback at Michigan to bring this number back into circulation. I am proud of Devin in a lot of ways, how much he's grown, sticking with this program and graduating in three years being among them. He's earned the right to wear this number, and I know he will represent it well."
Harmon, nicknamed "Old 98," became Michigan's first Heisman winner in 1940. That season he also won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Trophy as the nation's top player, as well as the Silver Football as the Big Ten Conference's Most Valuable Player. Harmon was named a unanimous All-American twice in his career and was later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.
"It's difficult to say how honored I am to wear No. 98," said Gardner. "You see Tom Harmon photos and prints all over our building. Knowing all of the things he accomplished on the field for this program and then representing our country, and to have the opportunity to speak to his family today, it's kind of surreal. I'm extremely humbled and blessed."
Harmon is regarded as the most talented player in Michigan history. He rushed for 2,134 career yards, completed 100 passes for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns, and scored 237 points, all while starring on defense and handling kicking duties. Twice during his career (1939 and '40) he led the nation in scoring, an achievement that remains unmatched today.
In his final game at Michigan, Harmon achieved arguably the greatest gridiron feat ever as he led the Wolverines to a 40-0 victory at Ohio State. He led the way with three rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns, four extra points, three interceptions and three punts that averaged 50 yards. At the end of the game he received a standing ovation from the crowd in Columbus.
Harmon was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the first selection of the NFL draft; instead he opted to sign with the New York Americans of the American Football League for one game. It was during this time he had enlisted as a fighter pilot with the Army Air Corps and was deployed in World War II. In 1943, Harmon was the only one to survive as his plane crashed into the South American jungle. For his actions with the 449th fighter squadron, he later was awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.
After returning from the war, Harmon briefly played with the Los Angeles Rams. He later became one of the first athletes to make the transition from player to on-camera talent and was one of the nation's top sports broadcasters while covering major events from the Rose Bowl to the Olympics.
Harmon's No. 98 is the final formerly-retired Michigan football jersey number brought back into circulation.
Honored and recognized as Michigan Football Legends during the 2012 season were the Wistert Brothers' (Albert, Alvin and Francis) No. 11, Bennie Oosterbaan's No. 47, Gerald Ford's No. 48 and Ron Kramer's No. 87.
Desmond Howard (No. 21) was the inaugural Michigan Football Legend, honored in 2011 during the first night game in Michigan Stadium history.
In addition to the permanent patch on the jersey, the Michigan Football Legends will be featured in a special area to be designed and constructed in the renovated Schembechler Hall. Also, the lockers used in both the Schembechler Hall and Michigan Stadium locker rooms will be customized to reflect the fact that those names will forever be recognized as Michigan Football Legends.
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