It is with heavy heart that I write this blog. Yesterday the captain of the 1969 Michigan Football Team, Jim Mandich, lost his battle with cancer. I needed to address this loss, and other losses we've had as a Michigan Football family recently. Last fall, you remember, Ron Kramer died, just a couple of weeks ago, Vada Murray passed away.
These are difficult losses to deal with, and with Mandich passing away yesterday it's just too much. In their own way, all three of these guys were icons for the Wolverines, and all three of their losses affect me. Mandich though, is very difficult. You see, Jim was my first captain as a varsity football player at Michigan. He tought us youngsters by his play and his example what it meant to play football at Michigan. He taught us what it meant to be a Michigan man.
As sophomores, we really looked up to the older guys, and with Schembechler coming in and rattling our cages as he did that first spring, the leadership of Mandich and his class was one of the main forces that held us together. Without them, without their steadfast committment to Michigan and Bo, Lord knows what may have happened. I truly believe that these guys were the foundation of the resurgence of Michigan Football under Bo. Anything and everything that has happened since that time in this football program, all the great success that it has enjoyed has been built in no small part on the backs of those young men that Jim Mandich led in 1969.
I'm not trying to rewrite history here. All that has followed since 1969 has been the result of a lot of great coaching, great players, and great recruiting. Clearly there are hundreds responsible for all of this. As Bo was so brilliant to say, it was about the team, the team, the team. With that credo, Michigan has scaled the heights.
But, at a moment in time many years ago, a group came together. They were unaware of it at the time, but it was an historic moment in time. They were at a junction where the tipping point might have gone either way. Led by the likes of Jim Mandich, the tip down the mountain never happened, instead, a steady climb up the mountain and unparalelled achievement followed.
Mandich does indeed hold a special spot in Michigan Football history. For me it's personal, he was my captain. For Michigan, he is one of the leaders and best we sing about in the fight song. His contribution was immense, and along with the Dierdorf's, Caldorazzo's, Craw's, Pryor's, Hill's, Moorehead's, Johnson's, Huff's, and others who thought just like Mandich, Michigan Football flourished.
God Bless you and keep you Jim Mandich. A great husband and father. A solid community leader after his playing days were over. We stood on his shoulders to reach places we never thought we could reach. A Michigan man of the highest order, and one of the true leaders and best!