Today is a great day to remember William Hannan as he rests in peace in a Detroit, Michigan cemetery. William Washington Hannan was one of the original thirteen lettermen who played on Team #1 back in 1879. He died on this date in 1917 at the age of sixty-three.
William Hannan grew up in Dowagiac, Michigan. He was matriculating on the Michigan campus in 1879 when he joined what I call the “Pigskin Pioneers.” Racine College in Racine, Wisconsin had issued a challenge to Michigan’s Football Association in October of 1878, but Michigan didn’t really have an organized team at that point. Some “football” games were being played on campus, but they were more “intramural” in nature. Up to that time, all football games had taken place on the Ann Arbor campus as “class vs class” matches. The proposed contest between Racine and Michigan would be in Chicago.
The members of Michigan’s Football Association voted to accept Racine’s challenge on the condition that the game be played in the spring of 1879. This request would allow the association sufficient time to organize and train the team. Michigan’s first captain, Dave DeTar, played a key role in gathering and training the candidates for Team #1. Lots of details had to be worked out before the actual game was played, but it did happen on that historic day – May 30, 1879.
Apparently, William Hannan was quite athletic and he had some speed. He probably didn’t know much about the new game of football, but he signed up to be part of the action. Eventually, he would play “rusher” on Team #1.
In May 1979, Captain DeTar took his team to Chicago for Michigan’s first intercollegiate football game. The Chicago Daily Tribune called it the “first rugby-football game… west of the Alleghenies.” The Wolverines made the trip count! The men from Michigan left Chicago with their first victory in their first intercollegiate game. Final score: Wolverines 1 and Purple Stockings 0. Scoring was a lot different in those days, but Captain DeTar made a successful place kick and Michigan had the point they needed for the win.
The Wolverines also played a second game, but that one was in November of 1979. The game was played in Detroit against Toronto. The game ended in a tie (0-0) and that was the end of Michigan’s first foray into the new game of college “football.”
So, today is a good day to honor the memory of a Michigan Man and appreciate his contributions to Michigan football. William W. Hannan was there for the start of Michigan’s long, and successful, football history. He played in both games in 1879 and is pictured with the thirteen lettermen on that inaugural team. William Hannan was a true “pigskin pioneer.” Thank you, William Hannan for being part of Team #1. You helped get the “ball” rolling in Ann Arbor. Now, one-hundred and thirty-seven years later, it is still going STRONG! May William W. Hannan always rest in peace. Go Blue!
To read more about William Hannan successful life after football check out the links below.