Today’s post celebrates the life of a Wolverine great named Jim Mandich who went to rest in peace on this day in 2011 at the age of sixty-two. James Michael “Jim” Mandich was born in Cleveland, Ohio on July 30, 1948. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, he grew up in Solon, Ohio where he became an outstanding athlete at Solon High School. Jim earned twelve varsity letters in high school, but football was his best sport. He was an All-Ohio and All-American football player in Solon. Somehow, Bump Elliott convinced him to come to Ann Arbor to play football for the Michigan Wolverines.
Of course, freshman didn’t play when Jim Mandich arrived at Michigan in 1966, so, he went to practice, learned Michigan’s offensive schemes and became the best student he could be. He came back ready to play in 1967 and earned his first varsity letter as a sophomore. Mandich started six games at left end and Jim caught 25 passes for a total of 248-yards. He earned the John Maulbetsch Award for his outstanding work in Spring Practice. The Wolverines finished with a record of 4 wins and 6 losses that year. They ended up in fifth place in the conference with a record of 3 wins and 4 losses.
Jim Mandich came back in 1968 ready to play more and help Michigan win more games. As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened! Jim started eight games as a Junior and almost doubled his productivity. He snagged 42-passes for 565-yards and scored 3 touchdowns. He earned first team All-Conference honors too! The best news was that Michigan finished the season with a final record of 8 wins and 2 losses. They went 6-1-0 in the conference and finished in second place. Unfortunately, the 1968 season ended with a “thud” when top-ranked Ohio State blew out Michigan (50-14) and even tried to score a two-point conversion when the game was already out-of-hand!
I am sure that Jim Mandich loved playing for the likeable Bump Elliott, but new Michigan’s new Athletic Director, Don Canham, was looking to the future. Unfortunately, Bump Elliott was not going to be coaching at Michigan after the 1968 season. Elliott was “bumped” (pun intended) into an assistant athletic director’s job to make way for a Buckeye named Schembechler.
Spring football in April 1969 was pure torture for the Michigan Football team. Bo scared them all and ran off the ones who were not ready to commit to his system. Jim Mandich was called “Mad Dog” by his teammates. He was a ferocious competitor who could get himself and his teammates “fired-up” to play football. That’s probably one of the reasons that he ended up being Bo’s first captain in 1969.
So, “Mad Dog” Mandich served Bo and his teammates well as a Michigan captain. He had a record setting season with 50 catches for 676-yards and four touchdowns. He helped avenge the ugly loss to OSU in 1968 and became a champion when the Wolverines upset the hated Buckeyes (24-12) in November 1969. Michigan finished the 1969 season with a final record of 8 wins and 3 defeats. More importantly, they ended the season with a Big Ten record of 6-1-0 and shared the conference championship with the hated Buckeyes.
Jim Mandich was named the Most Valuable Player on Bo’s first football team. He also earned All-Conference honors for the second straight season. Jim Mandich was named a first-team All-American in 1969 and, along with Tom Curtis, became one of Bo’s first All-American players. Jim Mandich went on to a successful NFL career after graduating from Michigan.
Speaking of firsts, let’s look at the “firsts” that connect Jim Mandich and Michigan football.
· Jim Mandich was on the first Bo Schembechler team in 1969 and he was Bo’s first team captain.
· Mandich played on Bo’s first championship team in 1969 and became Bo’s first MVP.
· Jim was the first tight end in Michigan football history to catch 50 passes and gain over 600-yards. He finished with 662-yards in 1969.
· Mandich is also the first, and only, Michigan Man to play on an undefeated NFL super Bowl Champion. He was a proud member of the 1972 Miami Dolphin team that finished 14-0.
· Jim Mandich was also the first Wolverine to win two Super Bowl championships when he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1978.
So, Jim Mandich finished his Michigan career with twenty-two starts, three varsity letters, a Big Ten Co-Championship and enough individual “honors” to fill a large room. Jim Mandich, and his teammates on the 1969 team, helped raised the bar for all Michigan Men who followed. Jim’s teams earned twenty victories for the Maize and Blue which included fifteen Big Ten wins in twenty-one games.
Today is a wonderful day to celebrate the legacy of Jim Mandich and appreciate his contributions to the great tradition of Michigan Football. May Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich always rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
To learn more about Jim Mandich check out the links below: