Today is a great day to wish a Happy Birthday to Tshimanga “Tim” Biakabutuka! The talented Tim Biakabutuka was born on this day in Kinshasa, Republic of Zaire. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, his family moved to a suburb of Montreal, Quebec when he was four years old. He didn’t play organized “tackle football” until he was in the eleventh grade. Once he started playing, he learned and ran faster! He earned the nickname “Touchdown Tim” while still in high school. Somehow, Gary Moeller, or someone on his staff, heard about the Canadian phenom and offered him a scholarship.
Tshimanga Biakabutuka’s name first showed up on a Michigan football roster in 1993. His height was listed at 6’ 1” and his weight was 185. Obviously, he needed to spend some time with Mike Gittleson in the weight room before he was ready to take on the defensive lineman and linebackers in the Big Ten! Interestingly, he didn’t start any games in 1993, but he did play in five games. Tim made 43 rushing attempts and gained 209 yards for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. He showed a lot of promise but the Michigan backfield was stacked with guys like Tyrone Wheatley, Walter Smith, Ricky Powers and Ed Davis getting more carries.
Tim’s work in the weight room paid off in 1994 when he showed up at 192 pounds. He was listed as the third running back behind Wheatley and Davis, but he did earn one start. Biakabutuka played in eleven games and dramatically increased his production. He gained 783 yards on 126 carries which averaged out to 6.2 yards per carry. Most people couldn’t say his names (first and last) properly, but everyone knew who he was. Touchdown Tim got into the end zone seven times in 1994 and he was probably looking to get better for the 1995 season.
Things were going well for Tshimanga, but not so much for his coach. Gary Moeller was feeling the heat after two straight four loss seasons (8-4 and 8-4). Moeller knew that the 1995 season had to be better, but he never got a chance to be part of it. When Moeller resigned in May 1995 things at Michigan were not going well. Lloyd Carr was named as the “interim” Head Football Coach at Michigan, but nobody knew if Carr would last. A lot of people had a lot on the line in 1995 and Tim Biakabutuka was one of them!
With Mike Gittleson’s help, a 205 pound Tshimanga Biakabutuka was ready to prove that he was Michigan’s number one tailback! Ed Davis was now second on the depth chart. Tim “B.” started all twelve games in 1995. He rushed for over one-hundred yards in eight of those games and had over ninety yards in three more. Biakabutuka rushed for 205 yards against Northwestern and topped off a brilliant regular season with a record setting day (313 yards) against the Number One Ranked Buckeyes! Tim finished the season with a new single season rushing record of 1,818 yards and twelve touchdowns.
Interestingly, Tshimanga’s outstanding season only earned him team MVP honors. Even though Tim won the head -to-head battle with Heisman Winner Eddie George, it was George who earned All-Big Ten first team honors. Eddie George earned most of the first team All-American selections as well. Biakabutuka’s stellar play was ignored by almost everyone except his coaches and teammates. Fortunately, the Heisman voters did think enough of Tim to vote him into eighth place for the 1995 Heisman Award.
The NFL scouts didn’t ignore Tim’s outstanding season. The Carolina Panthers used their number one pick to get him as the eighth player selected in the 1996 NFL Draft. So, “Touchdown Tim” was gone with one season of eligibility remaining.
Tim Biakabutuka’s name is all over the Michigan record book. He is one of the top five backs to play at Michigan – period. Here are some Michigan football “firsts” that are associated with “Touchdown Tim” Biakabutuka!
- First player born in Zaire to play football at Michigan.
- Played on the first Lloyd Carr Team in 1995.
- First and only player to rush for over 300 yards (313) against Ohio State in 1995.
- First and only player to rush for over 1,800 yards (1,818) in a single season. (Still the all-time record at Michigan).
Tim Biakabutuka went on to play six years in the NFL. I often wonder what kind of numbers he could have put in the books if he would have stayed for his final season of eligibility. A healthy Tim would have been an All-American for sure and a strong candidate for the Heisman. Oh well, he did what he had to do. I will always be a BIG FAN of Tshimanga Biakabutuka!
Today is a good day to remember the contributions of Tshimanga Biakabutuka to Michigan Football. He, and his teammates, contributed twenty-five wins to the all-time Wolverine victory total. Thanks for the Maize and Blue memories Tshimanga Biakabutuka! I hope you enjoy your special day today. Go Blue!