A little less than two decades after it was retired, the jersey number worn by a man whose post-Michigan exploits made him famous will be put back into circulation this season.
Speaking to a radio station in Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday morning, Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke confirmed that jersey No. 48, previously worn by former UM offensive lineman and ex-President of the United States Gerald R. Ford, will be issued this year. Just who will wear the jersey was not divulged by Hoke.
The number was retired in 1994 and is one of five to be bestowed with that honor. The family of Ford, who died in 2006, was consulted prior to making the decision.
Instead of having a retired number, Ford’s No. 48 will be emblazoned with a “Michigan Football Legend” patch, similar to what the school did with Desmond Howard’s No. 21 last season.
“I think it’s a much better way to memorialize and honor those folks,” athletic director David Brandon had told the Detroit News. “In making the decision in how to do this going forward, I have consulted with people who follow the program and consider themselves experts. I would simply say, ‘Name the numbers and the players that have been retired.’ They may name one or two, but they can’t name all five.”
In addition to Ford, the other four numbers belonged to Tom Harmon (98), Bennie Oosterbaan (47), the Wistert Brothers (11), Ron Kramer (87). The school has also had conversations with the family members of those players, although there’s no word on if/when those numbers will be put back into circulation.
(Photo credit: Michigan athletics)
UPDATED 8:32 a.m. ET: Michigan has also announced that the jersey numbers of Kramer and Oosterbaan will be put back into circulation as well.
“The success and acceptance of the Desmond Howard ‘Legend’ recognition led to conversations with the family members who had retired jerseys, several of whom were never recognized or celebrated in the appropriate manner,” Brandon said in a statement. “The Ford, Kramer and Oosterbaan families want to see their family member honored in this way.
“This program is about tradition and legacy and this is a unique way to recognize these great Wolverines.”
Brandon also clarified that there have been no discussions with the families of Harmon and and the Wistert brothers about unretiring those numbers.