Today is a great day to remember a Michigan Man named Eben “Tug” Wilson who went to rest in peace on this day in 1948. Wilson was seventy-nine years old at the time of his death.
Eben “Tug” Wilson grew up in Merrill, Michigan. However, Tug came to Ann Arbor from neighboring Ypsilanti. Back in the day, when the eligibility rules were much different, players could play a lot of football. Apparently, Wilson played at least one season (maybe more) at Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University). According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Eben Wilson captained the Huron team in 1898. Upon graduation, he was admitted to the University of Michigan Law School. He still had football in his blood and the rules said it was okay so, he was on the field for Gustave Ferbert’s last year in 1899.
Eben Wilson is credited with four starts (3 at left tackle and 1 at right guard) during the 1899 season. Ferbert’s last team posted a record of 8 wins, 2 losses and 0 ties. They finished third in the Western Conference that year. Even though Wilson is pictured with the letter winners in the 1899 team photo, he is not listed as a letter winner for the 1899 season. (I will definitely check that out with the Michigan Athletic Department Record Keepers!)
After Ferbert moved to Alaska to dig for his fortune, Langdon “Bif” Lea took charge of the Michigan Football team. Michigan posted a very good record of 7-2-1 in Lea’s first and only season. However, the Wolverines dropped to fifth place in the conference with a 3-2-0 record. According to the Bentley Historical Library, Eben Wilson started seven games at center in 1900. Interestingly, he is not pictured with the letter winners in the 1900 team photo and is not listed as a letter winner in the Michigan Athletic Department football records data base. How does a guy start seven games on one of the most important positions on the team and not earn a letter? I’m scratching my head on that one!
Regardless, Eben “Tug” Wilson was back on the field in 1901 to play for his third coach in three years! As it turned out, Fielding Yost liked Eben Wilson enough to start him in all eleven games of the famous “point-a-minute” team of 1901. Michigan finished that record setting season with the most wins in the young history of the Wolverine football program. They posted a perfect record of 11-0-0 overall and went 4-0-0 in conference play. The Wolverines were Western Conference champions for the second time and National Champions for the first time. Eben Wilson and his teammates also played in, and won, the first Rose Bowl game in history. The Wolverines blasted Stanford (Yost’s previous employer) by a score of 49-0 even though the game ended early!
The good news for Eben Wilson is that he is pictured with the 1901 Michigan football team and he is listed as a letter winner in the Michigan Athletic Department records! Finally, the man got his due for three years of hard work on the Michigan football team.
Yes, Eben “Tug” Wilson is one of a very few men who played for three different coaches in three years at Michigan. He is also connected to a number of important Wolverine Football “firsts.” Here are the best ones:
· Eben WIlson played on the first (and only) team coached by Langdon “Bif” Lea in 1900.
· Wilson played on Fielding Yost’s first Michigan team in 1901.
· Eben Wilson played on the first Michigan football team to win eleven games in 1901.
· Wilson played on Michigan’s first national championship team in 1901.
· Eben Wilson played in the first Rose Bowl game in January 1902.
So, today is a good day to honor the memory of a Michigan Man and appreciate his contributions to Michigan football. Eben “Tug” Wilson played a lot of good football at Michigan. He helped the Wolverines win twenty-six games in three years. May Eben “Tug” Wilson always rest in peace. Go Blue!
To read more about Eben “Tug” Wilson and the amazing 1901 Michigan Football team check out the links below. (Note – the Wikipedia article spells Wilson’s first name differently (Eben) than the Michigan data bases and files I used for my research (Ebin), but I stuck with “Eben.”)