Today’s post celebrates the happy birthday anniversary of Herb Steger. Herbert F. Steger was born on this day in 1902. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Friedman grew up in Oak park, Illinois where he became quite a football player. After graduating from Oak Park High School in 1921, Steger decided to continue his education and his football at Michigan.
Herb Steger arrived in Ann Arbor in the fall of 1921. He spent his first year on the freshman team. He learned the Fielding Yost football system and did his best to hit the books so that he would be ready for varsity play in 1922.
Steger started two games in 1922 in a very crowded, and talented, Michigan backfield. He was an all-around player who could run, pass, punt and kick. Oh yes, he also played well on defense! Sophomore Herb Steger was the third leading scorer on the undefeated Michigan team in 1922. He scored three touchdowns, kicked two extra-points and one field goal. He earned his first letter on a Wolverine team that finished with a record of 6-0-1. The Wolverines posted a Big Ten record of 4 wins and 0 losses and tied Iowa for the conference championship. Herb Steger’s Michigan career was off to a very good start!
The talented Steger returned in 1923 and proved himself to be even more valuable to Coach Yost and the Michigan Football program. Steger started a career-high seven games that season and scored five touchdowns. He continued to do whatever Yost asked him to do and he did it very well. Steger’s outstanding play helped Michigan post a perfect record of 8 wins, 0 losses and 0 ties. They won a share of another Big Ten Title with a record of 4-0-0. Steger earned his second letter, but more importantly, he earned the trust and confidence of his teammates who elected him to be the captain of the 1924 team.
In an interesting turn of events, Herb Steger did not play for Yost in 1924 because Yost stepped supposedly “retired” from coaching. Actually, he was still the athletic director and he spent a lot of time “helping” at practice, much to the chagrin of “coach” George Little.
Herb Steger was a hard-working player who led by example. He played hard for every minute and made sure his teammates did the same. This was the year that Michigan lost to Red Grange and Illinois in their stadium dedication game. Grange scored five touchdowns in the game and ran over, around and through the Wolverine defense. It was embarrassing.
It is interesting to note that this was the first game that Herb Steger ever “lost” in his football life. He played on four undefeated teams at Oak Park High School and never lost a game in his first two seasons at Michigan. So, Herb Steger, as a player and a captain, took this loss very personally. However, even with the scoreboard leaving no doubt as to the winner of the game, Herb Steger kept fighting right until the last second of the game because he did not know how to lose.
Author Will Perry wrote in his wonderful book, “The Wolverines” A Story of Michigan Football” that “Fight like Steger” was the motto that emerged from the Illinois game.(Page 106) Yes, Herb Steger was a leader who did everything he could to win for Michigan!
So, Herb Steger lost his first game of his life in 1924 and the second one too against Iowa, in the final game of his career. The Wolverines ended the season with a final record of 6 wins and 2 losses and finished fourth in the Big Ten. Coach George Little made it through the end of the season, but he was finished at Michigan. He couldn’t stand the meddling of his Athletic Director boss, Fielding Yost, so, he decided to move on to become the Head Coach at Wisconsin.
Of course, I would not be talking about Herb Steger today if he wasn’t part of some Michigan football “firsts.” Here are the best ones I found for Mr. Steger:”
· On October 7, 1922, Herb Steger scored on a 60-yard touchdown on his first carry, in his first game at Michigan. The Wolverines defeated Case by a score of 48-0.
· Herb Steger played on the first, and only, team coached by George Little in 1924.
· Steger was George Little’s first, and only captain since he only coached the team in 1924.
So, on the one-hundred fifteenth anniversary of his birth, let us remember an amazing Michigan Captain. Herb Steger represented the best of Wolverine Football as a player and, later, as a proud Michigan graduate. Herb Steger went on to a successful career in business and served as a Big Ten Football official for twenty-two years. Sadly, Herb Steger died at his home in Chicago, Illinois on July 20, 1968 at the age of sixty-six. May Herb Steger continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!