Today is a great day to reflect on the career of Tony Branoff, who went to rest in peace on this day in 2012. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Anthonios “Tony” Branoff was born in Flint, Michigan. He became a football star at Flint Central High School. Branoff earned “All-Michigan” honors in 1951. Unfortunately, he injured his knee in his senior year. That injury would plague him for the rest of his football career, but it didn’t stop him!
When it came time to pick a college, Tony Branoff decided to become a Michigan Man. Branoff arrived in Ann Arbor in 1952 when freshman cold play – if they were good enough! Tony was definitely “good enough.” He started six games at right halfback on a Michigan team that posted a final record of 5 wins and 4 losses. The Wolverines finished in a tie for fourth in the Big Ten with a final record of 4-2-0.
Branoff was back on Bennie Ooosterbaan’s Wolverine team in 1953. Tony started all nine games at right halfback and had an excellent season. The multi-talented Branoff led the team in rushing (527 yards for an average of 5.2 yards per carry) and scoring with 39 points (6 touchdowns and 3 extra points.) He rolled up 1,011 yards of total offense when you include add on his passing yards (113), receiving yards (151), kickoff returns (130), and punt returns (90). Oh, by the way, he also handled the punting duties that year. Man, I’ll bet he slept well after every game he played in 1953! Yes, Tony Branoff was a big reason that he Wolverines ended the 1953 football season with an overall record of 6 wins and 3 losses.
Branoff achieved a Michigan Football “first” when he was named Most Valuable Player for the 1953 season. It was the first time that a sophomore had ever received such an honor. He also won the Meyer Morton Award that season for his outstanding work in spring practice. There is no doubt that he deserved it since everyone knew that he was always playing in pain.
Tony Branoff continued to play his best in 1954 and 1955. However, his injured left knee limited him to two starts in 1954. The courageous Branoff started nine games in 1955, but he was heavily taped in every game. So, his mobility was limited. Despite it all, he managed to lead Michigan in rushing (387 yards) in 1955. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns.
The Wolverines also had a strong season in 1955. Bennie Oosterbaan’s footballers won 7 games and lost 2. Michigan finished third in the Big Ten Conference with a record of 5-2-0.
Tony Branoff’s career is a tribute to grit and courage. He willed his way through four seasons and became an integral part of Bennie Oosterbaan’s Single Wing Offense. In addition to being the first sophomore to be named team MVP, Branoff is also connected to some other interesting Michigan Football “firsts.”
· Tony Branoff played in the first ever game against Washington in 1953. The Wolverines won the game by a score of 50-0.
· Branoff played in the first seven game conference season in Michigan Football history in 1954. The Wolverines posted a record of 5 wins and 2 losses.
· Tony Branoff played in the first game ever against Missouri on September 24, 1955. Michigan won the game by a score of 42-7.
Bottom line, today is a great day to remember Tony Branoff on the fifth anniversary of his passing. May Anthonios “Tony” Branoff continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
To read more about Tony Branoff and the 1955 Michigan Football team please check out the links below: