Today is a great day to wish a Happy Birthday to Michigan Man Dennis Franklin. According to the 1974 Michigan Football Media Guide, Dennis E. Franklin was born at Massillon, Ohio on this date. He grew up to be a record-setting quarterback for the Massillon Tigers. Franklin knew how to run and he could also pass. Bo Schembechler thought he was the perfect man to run his option offense at Michigan. So, Bo went after Dennis Franklin and convinced him to become a Michigan Wolverine. The rest, as they say, is history!
Dennis Franklin arrived in Ann Arbor in 1971. Freshmen, even the best ones, did not play on the varsity in 1971, but that would change in 1972. Dennis worked on the freshman team and did his best to learn Bo’s offense. Apparently, he learned his lessons well!
Franklin won the starting quarterback job for the 1972 season and did not relinquish that responsibility until his Michigan career ended in November 1974. Although he doesn’t like to talk about it, Dennis Franklin was the first African-American to quarterback a Michigan Football team. And yes, he did it very well.
Dennis Franklin started thirty-one games from 1972 to 1974. He ran Bo’s option offense about as well as anyone could. He was a dangerous runner who gained over 1,200 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. Franklin didn’t have to throw a lot, but when he did he usually got the job done. He threw 18 career touchdown passes and totaled over 2,200 yards. Dennis earned the John Maulbetsch Award in 1972 and the Meyer Morton Award in 1974. His teammates honored him by naming him as a Co-Captain (along with Dave Brown) for the 1974 season. Dennis also earned All-Conference Honors in 1973.
Interestingly, all the stats that I mentioned above are not the most important thing to know about Dennis Franklin. The best thing about Dennis was that he was a leader! Franklin led his teams to a record of 30 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie in 33 games. Of course, that led to at least a share of three straight Big Ten Titles. However, the Big Ten’s archaic bowl rules and the 1973 fiasco about the 10-10 tie with OSU did not help Franklin. Dennis Franklin will always be remembered as the best quarterback in Michigan Football History never to lead a team in a bowl game.
Of course, Dennis Franklin would not be the subject of today’s blog if he wasn’t connected to some important Michigan Football “firsts.” Here are the best ones that I could find for Dennis Franklin:
- Dennis Franklin is the first African American to play quarterback at Michigan.
- Franklin played in the first ever game against Colorado in 1974. Michigan won the game by a score of 31-0.
- Dennis Franklin is the first Michigan quarterback to lead teams to three-straight 10-win seasons and three consecutive Big Ten Championships (or shares) from 1972 to 1974.
- Franklin was the first Michigan quarterback to have a 1.63 interception percentage for an entire season in 1972. (Note-this is still the third lowest season rate in Michigan Football History.)
Bottom line – Dennis Franklin was a winner who did everything that Bo asked him to do except not break his collarbone! Franklin played some great football on some great teams. Please take a moment to appreciate his contributions to Michigan Football History. I hope that Dennis Franklin has a great day today on his birthday. Go Blue!
Check out the clip below from Dr. Sap on Franklin’s TD run on 4th Down and inches vs OSU in 1973.