Today’s blog celebrates the memory of another Michigan great named Louis Matthew Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert was born on this date in Long Beach, California in 1906. He grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan and came to play football for Fielding H. Yost in 1924. After a year on the freshman team, he quickly established himself as a versatile player who could run, pass, punt and kick the ball!
He wore the number 16 on his back and earned seven starts at halfback on Yost’s 1925 team. (Note-it would be a few more years before players wore numbers on the front and back of the jersey.) This Wolverines ended the season with a record of 7-1-0. They earned the Big Ten championship that year with a record of 5-1-0.
Gilbert made five starts as a junior in 1926. Once again, the Wolverines had an outstanding season. They matched the record of 1925 and tied with Purdue for the Big Ten’s top spot. It would be Yost’s tenth and last conference championship. That was an interesting year in Michigan football because it turned out to be the last season for Coach Fielding H. Yost. It was also the last season that Michigan played their games at historic Ferry Field. I have been unable to determine how many touchdowns that Gilbert scored in 1926, but I am sure that he was one of the last men to score on this hallowed Michigan field.
Gilbert’s senior year was a time of great transition in Ann Arbor. Elton E. “Tad” Wieman replaced Yost on the sidelines which was a huge task all by itself. However, the bigger task was to field a team that would fill Michigan Stadium which opened for play on October 1, 1927. Gilbert and the rest of his Wolverine teammates played their hearts out in 1927, but they probably came up a little short of Yost’s expectations for the team. Their overall record was 6-2-0, but they fell to third in the conference with a record of 3-2-0.
Louis Gilbert and his Wolverines teammates played in front of many record breaking crowds in 1927. Gilbert did his best to bring them to their feet when he was on the field. His stellar play in this transition season earned him All-Big Ten recognition at the end of the 1927 season.
He played solid all season, but had two “Heisman type” games that are worth noting.
The first game in the history of Michigan Stadium was played on October 1,1927 against Ohio Weslayan. The final score was 33-0. Interestingly, Louis Gilbert had a hand in every point scored in that game. He threw a pass to Laverne “Kip” Taylor who scored the first touchdown in Michigan Stadium history! But, Gilbert wasn’t done. He ran for two touchdowns, kicked three point-after-touchdowns, and threw two more touchdowns for a total of three on this historic day.
Things got even better for Louis Gilbert in the official dedication game against Ohio State on October 22, 1927. Gilbert scored the only touchdowns (three) in this historic game and also kicked three extra points that day. Final score: Louis Gilbert and the Wolverines 21, Ohio State 0! Too bad Michigan didn’t play more games against Ohio teams in 1927.
Louis Gilbert left his family, friends and Wolverine Nation on May, 9, 1987. He was eighty years old at the time of his death. Today is a good day to remember the accomplishments of Louis Gilbert. He definitely lived up to all the expectations of a “Michigan Man!” Rest in peace Wolverine!
A more detailed article about the life and times of Louis Gilbert can be found at the link below: