Attention Wolverine fans – today is another day to remember a happy birthday anniversary for Michigan Man Fred Julian. Alfred J. “Fred” Julian was born on this day in 1938 in Detroit, Michigan. Julian graduated from Pershing High School in Detroit in 1956. He came to Ann Arbor that fall to continue his studies and his football career.
Like all good Wolverine “rookies” of the time, Fred played halfback on the freshman team under the watchful eye of Coach Cliff Keen. Julian learned the ways of Michigan football and did everything he could to prepare for a position on Bennie Oosterbaan’s varsity in 1957. Fred Julian made the varsity as a sophomore, but did not earn any starts. However, he played enough to earn his first varsity letter.
Fred came back in 1958 looking to play more and contribute to the success of the 1958 Wolverine team. The good news was that the gritty Julian started nine games in his junior season. He earned his second letter under Bennie Ooosterbaan. The bad news was that Michigan finished with a final record of 2 wins, 6 losses and 1 tie. It was the worst record in Oosterbaan’s eleven-year tenure at Michigan. Bennie knew it was time to move on and he resigned a few weeks after the end of the 1958 season.
Bump Elliott was Michigan’s new coach for the 1959 football season. He was Oosterbaan’s assistant for two years so he knew about most of the returning players. Elliott stated that it would take five years to rebuild the Wolverines into a championship contender again. So, expectations were not that high in year one of the Elliott Era. The Wolverines improved from the 1958 season, but not by much. Michigan finished the season with a record of 4 wins and 5 losses.
Fred Julian did his best to improve things in Ann Arbor in 1959. He started seven games for Elliott’s first team. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry and gained a career-high 289 yards in his senior year. Julian rushed for two touchdowns and caught thirteen passes for 138 yards. One of his scores was the game winner against Illinois (20-15). Fred was a workhorse that season since he also returned punts and kickoffs for the Wolverines. I am sure that he slept well after every game!
Fred Julian is also connected to some interesting “football firsts” at Michigan. Check these out!
· Fred Julian was on the field in 1956 for Michigan’s first ever 100k crowd against Michigan State (101,001).
· Julian played on Bump Elliott’s first football team in 1959
· Fred was the first, and only, man to lead a Michigan football team in rushing (289 yards) with less than 300 yards in 1959.
Fred Julian was a three-year letterman who started sixteen games at Michigan. He gave everything he had to his coaches and his teammates. So, on the seventy-ninth anniversary of his birth, let’s celebrate the memory of this dedicated Michigan Man. Fred went on to become an outstanding high school and junior college football coach in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Check out the excellent Wikipedia article linked below. Fred Julian left his family, friends and teammates on May 4, 2013 at the age of 75. May Fred Julian always rest in peace. Go Blue!