Today’s blog is dedicated to celebrating the birth anniversary of Bennie P. McRae. The talented Benjamin Prince “Bennie” McRae was born in Aberdeen, North Carolina on this date in 1939. He became an outstanding athlete (football and track) at Collis P. Huntington High School in Newport News, Virginia.
Bennie came to play halfback and defensive back for Bennie Oosterbaan, but he actually played for Bump Elliott. He enrolled at Michigan in 1958 and spent his year on the freshman team. He learned the Elliott system and took his classwork seriously. Bennie made sure he would be ready to play for the Wolverines in 1959.
Bennie P. McRae did not earn any starts in his sophomore season, but he played plenty of football. He carried the ball seventy-six times and averaged just over three-yards per carry (3.2 to be exact). McRae also caught four passes and averaged over twenty-five yards (25.5) per catch. He scored one rushing touchdown and one on a pass reception. He also averaged just over twenty-one yards (21.1) on kickoff returns. Bennie proved to be a versatile and dependable player in his first year on the Michigan varsity football squad. He earned his first letter and hit the indoor track to work on his speed in the off-season.
Bump Elliott knew that Bennie P. McRae was a special talent. Elliott kept finding ways to get the ball in McRae’s hands. Bennie earned eighty-carries in 1960 and averaged just over four yards per rush (4.3). He continued to lead the team in kickoff returns. McRae averaged just over eighteen yards per return. He also took over the punt return duties and averaged just over eight yards per return. Michigan posted their first winning record in two years in 1960. The Wolverines finished Bump Elliott’s second season with an overall record of 5-4-0. They went 3-4-0 in the Big Ten which was only good for fifth place.
Bennie P. McRae continued to work hard on the track in the off-season. His goal was simple – get faster and stronger! McRae put up his best numbers during his senior season. Bennie improved his rushing average to six yards per carry and scored three touchdowns on the ground. He also got back into the passing game. McRae caught ten passes and averaged twenty-one yards per catch. He scored on two of those pass receptions including one for seventy-two yards!
McRae’s best game was an all-star performance against the Duke Blue Devils in Ann Arbor. Michigan won the game by a score of 28-14. McRae scored eighteen of the points on three touchdowns. One touchdown came on a five-yard run, another came on a fifteen-yard pass reception, and another was a thirty-four yard pick-six! I bet he slept well that night!
Bennie’s excellent all-around play earned him All-Big Ten honors in 1961. Michigan finished with a record of 6-3-0, but could only break even in the conference (3-3-0).
So, Bennie P. McRae played some very good football from 1959 to 1961. He helped the Wolverines turn things around after losing seasons in 1958 and 1959. He left things better than when he arrived and that’s all anyone can do. In addition to his individual accomplishments, Bennie is also connected to some interesting Michigan Football “firsts.” Check them out:
- · Bennie McRae played on Bump Elliott’s first Michigan team in 1959.
- · McRae played in the first ever game against Oregon State in 1959.
- · Bennie McRae, and his teammates, gave Bump Elliott his first win against Oregon State (18-7).
- · McRae’s best game as a Wolverine was also the first ever game against the Duke Blue Devils in 1960.
Bennie McRae went on to a successful ten-year career in the National Football League. For more information about the life and times of Bennie McRae go to the link below. Sadly, Bennie McRae left his family and friends on November 22, 2012. He was seventy-two years old. Today is a good day to remember the contributions of Michigan Man Bennie P. McRae. May he rest in peace. Go Blue!