Today is a great day to remember a Wolverine legend named Bob Chappuis on the 94th anniversary of his birth. Robert Richard “Bob” Chappuis was born in Toledo, Ohio on this day in 1923. Yes, he was another Buckeye who saw the light and came to play for the Wolverines in 1941.
Bob Chappuis spent a year on the freshman team in 1941. Just after the end of the season the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and America was at war! Chappuis, like all men of his era, had no idea what was going to happen. He came back to Michigan for the 1942 season and played well enough to earn a letter on a team that finished with a record of 7 wins and 3 losses. The Wolverines finished third in the conference that year with a record of 3-2-0. In early 1943 Bob Chappuis put on a different uniform – that of the U.S. Army Air Forces.
According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Lieutenant Bob Chappuis served in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1943 until 1945. He was assigned as a radio operator and aerial gunner on 21 dangerous missions. His last mission, in February 1945, resulted in an adventure that he probably hoped would never happen. His plane was shot down and he parachuted to safety. Luckily, the Italian partisans rescued him before the Germans got their hands on him! Chappuis, and two other American airmen, were kept safe until the end of the war.
War veteran Bob Chappuis was back at Michigan in 1946 to finish his education and his football. He led the Wolverines to a record of 16-2-1 from 1946 to 1947. In 1947, The Wolverines went 10-0-0 in 1947 and won the Big Nine Championship, the national championship and the Rose Bowl. He led the Mad Magicians to fourteen straight wins once he got back into shape! Chappuis led Michigan and the Big Nine in rushing in 1946, total offense in 1946 and 1947 and he earned the Michigan MVP Award in 1947. He earned All-Conference honors, All-American honors and finished his career with the Rose Bowl MVP Award in January 1948. I may have missed a couple things, but you get the idea – he was very, very good!
The Chappuis name was all over the Michigan record book when Bob left Michigan. Some of his records lasted for twenty or more years. Most of his records have been shattered because today’s players have more games to accumulate bigger statistics. The bottom line with Bob Chappuis is simple – he was a winner who did everything he was asked to do. He doesn’t hold any records today, but he is still one of the best players on the team that many say was the best in Michigan Football History!
Here are some Michigan football “firsts” that connect Bob Chappuis with Michigan Football:
· First Michigan player to play a full, record setting, season with a fractured wrist in 1946 (With no tape – he was really, really tough!).
· First Michigan/Big Nine player to record 1,284 yards of offense in one season (1946).
· First player in Michigan/Big Nine football history to lead the conference in total offense in two straight years (1946 and 1947). Chappuis also broke his own record and raised it to 1,405.
· First player to total over three hundred yards of total offense (307) in a single game against Ohio State in 1947.
· First player to total over 270 yards of total offense (279) in the Rose Bowl in January 1948.
· Played on the first, and only, national championship team coached by Fritz Crisler in 1947.
· First Michigan man to throw 23 touchdown passes over a career.
Today is a good day to remember a true-blue Michigan Legend named Bob Chappuis. He was a war hero, the leader of the Mad Magicians, and a card-carrying member of America’s Greatest Generation. He lived a long and successful life that ended on June 14, 2012 at the age of eighty-nine. Chappuis, and his teammates, contributed twenty-three wins to the all-time Wolverine victory total. They also added a conference championship and a national championship to boot!
All I can say is “Thanks” for men like Bob Chappuis. May he always rest in peace. Go Blue!