December 30, 2017 Happy Birthday Harlan Huckleby

1978 Michigan Football Team | bigbluefootballhistory.com
Harlan Huckleby (#25) is shown above with the 1978 Big Ten Co-Champion Michigan Wolverine Football team. He is seated in the front row – sixth man from the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

The purpose of today’s blog is to wish a very happy birthday to a Michigan Man named Harlan Huckleby. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Harlan Charles Huckleby was born on this day in Detroit, Michigan. Harlan was an outstanding athlete at Cass Technical High School. He starred in football and track. In fact, he was a four-time state champion in high school. Yes, he was very, very fast! He received an offer to run track and play football at Michigan and he slowed down long enough to sign the paperwork.

Harlan Huckleby Michigan Football 1978 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Harlan Huckleby was an important man on three Big Ten Championship teams from 1976 to 1978. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Harlan arrived in Ann Arbor in 1975 and played in his freshman year, thanks to the new eligibility rules in college football. He didn’t start any games, but he carried the ball in four games (31 for 228 yards) and earned his first varsity letter. Michigan posted an overall record of 8-2-2 in his first year. The Wolverines ended with a final record of 7 wins and 1 loss in the Big Ten which was only good enough for second place.

Huckleby had a much bigger role on the 1976 Michigan Football team. He started nine games at tailback and put up some impressive numbers. Harlan logged 155 carries and gained 912 net yards. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry and scored 11 touchdowns. Of course, that was good enough to earn his second varsity letter. The Wolverines won 10 of 12 games and tied for the Big Ten Co-Championship with a record of 7-1-0. It was a great time to be a Wolverine player, coach and fan!

Harlan Huckleby came back stronger and ready to play even better in 1977. He started all twelve games at tailback and turned 160 carries into 743 yards. His yards per carry averaged dipped to 4.6 yards, but he did score six touchdowns. Once again, the Wolverines finished with a final record of 10-2-0 and won another conference co-championship with a record of, you guessed it, 7-1-0.

In 1978, Harlan Huckleby started nine more games, but he shared the ball with two pretty good backs named Butch Woolfolk and Roosevelt Smith. Harlan still had 154 carries and he gained 741 yards. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and scored five more touchdowns. For the third straight year, the Wolverines ended the season the same way they finished the last two. They finished the regular season at 10-2-0 and the Big Ten with a record of 7-1-0 and a third consecutive Big Ten Championship.

Michigan Football Backfield 1978 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Harlan Huckleby (#25) was an integral part of Michigan’s championship backfield in 1978. Rob Lytle (#41), Russell Davis (#33), Zeka Wallace (#37) and (#7) Rick Leach are the rest of this “Fab Five” backfield. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Harlan Huckleby finished his career with some impressive numbers. He logged exactly 500 carries and totaled 2,624 net yards. Harlan averaged 5.2 yards per carry and he scored 25 touchdowns. When you add in his receiving yards (157) and his kickoff return yards (236) his “all-purpose” yards totaled 3,017! Yes, he had a very productive career in Ann Arbor.

In addition to playing on some outstanding teams, Harlan Huckleby is also associated with many Michigan Football “firsts.” Here are the best ones that I could find:

  • Harlan Huckleby was one of the first Michigan running backs to carry a striped ball in a in the season opener at Wisconsin on September 13, 1975. The Wolverines beat the Badgers by a score of 23-6.
  • Huckleby also played in the first ever games against Baylor two weeks later and the game ended in a 14-14 tie. Since the Wolverines tied Stanford the week before (19-19), it was the first time a Michigan Football team played in back-to-back ties.
  • On October 18, 1975, Huckleby, along with Rob Lytle and Gordon Bell, made history when each one of them rushed for 100-yards or more in a 69-0 rout of Northwestern. It was the first time that a trio of Michigan backs ever accomplished that feat. Freshman Harlan Huckleby led the way on that historic day with 157-yards on 16 carries.
  • Harlan Huckleby and Rob Lytle teamed up with Russell Davis on September 18, 1976 and did it again. For the second time in Michigan Football History, and the second time in just under a year, all three men rushed for at least 100-yards. But wait, it gets better – Harlan Huckleby had, you guessed it, exactly 157 yards. Amazing stuff! Oh yes, Michigan beat Stanford 51-0.
  • Huckleby was also on the first Michigan Football team to play in front of four home crowds of at least one-hundred thousand people. In fact, he played in the Purdue game which was the first game of “The Streak” (a crowd of at least 100K) on November 8, 1975. Michigan has now played in front of 100,000 people in 279 straight games!
  • Harlan Huckleby also played in Michigan’s first ever Orange Bowl game on January 1, 1976. It was also their first ever game against Oklahoma. Unfortunately, Michigan lost to the Sooners 6-14.
  • Huckleby played in the first ever game against Wake Forest in 1976. Michigan won 31-0.
  • Harlan Huckleby played in front of at least 100K people for every home game (7) in 1976. It was the first time that it ever happened in Michigan Football History. Michigan averaged 103,159 fans per game in 1976 – another first!
  • Harlan Huckleby experienced one more “first” when the Wolverines had their names printed on the back of their jerseys in the 1977 Rose Bowl game against USC. Yes, they lost the game to the Trojans 6-14.

Yes, Harlan Huckleby played during a pretty eventful time in Michigan Football History. He played on three Big Ten Championship teams, earned four varsity letters, and gained over 3,000 total yards for the Wolverines. Today is definitely a good day to remember the excellent Michigan Football career of Harlan Huckleby.

Of course, Harlan also had an outstanding track career at Michigan. He also played professional football player in the Canadian Football League and the National Football League. I hope that Harlan Huckleby has a very Maize and Blue Happy Birthday today! Go Blue!

To read more about Harlan Huckleby go to the links below:

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlan_Huckleby

http://bentley.umich.edu/athdept/football/fbteam/1978fbt.htm

Barry Gallagher

Barry Gallagher

Barry Gallagher is a self-proclaimed Michigan Football Archeologist. He spends a considerable amount of his time digging into the 138-year history of Wolverine Football. He is on a mission to share his findings with Maize and Blue football fans everywhere. He is the author of one book about Michigan Football titled "21-194-13 Michigan Football's Greatest Era". His second book titled, "The Legend of Bo Schembechler-How an Unknown Buckeye Became the Winningest Coach in Michigan Football History" was released on September 12, 2017. You can learn something about Michigan Football everyday by going to his website at: bigbluefootballhistory.com. You can also follow him on Social Media.
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