Today’s post celebrates the contributions of another Michigan Wolverine named Tod Rockwell who went to rest in peace on this day in 1952. He was fifty-two years old when he died. According to the Wikipedia article listed below, Ferdinand Almon “Tod” Rockwell was born in Jackson, Michigan in 1900, but no date is known. Rockwell got hooked on “football” as a young man. He came to Ann Arbor in 1920 to play football for the legendary coach named Fielding H. Yost.
After a year on the freshman team, he left the team for two years, but came back in 1923. He began the season as the backup quarterback to Irwin Uteritz, but finished the season as the starter when Uteritz broke his ankle in a game against the Quantico Marines. Rockwell replaced the injured quarterback and started to make things happen – immediately! On his first play as a varsity football player, Tod Rockwell did something that very few Michigan Men have ever done. He scored a touchdown on his first play (a fake field goal) to help lead the Wolverines to a 26-6 win over the Marines.
In his next game at Wisconsin, he made another famous “play.” In the second quarter, Rockwell fielded a bouncing punt and took off down the field. According to Will Perry’s book, (“The Wolverines: A Story of Michigan Football, Page 100) Rockwell was hit and knocked to the ground on several occasions, but he was never in anyone’s “grasp” when he touched the ground. The whistle never blew, so he didn’t stop running until he crossed the goal line. His controversial scoring run turned out to be the only touchdown of the game. Even though Michigan missed the PAT kick, they won the game by a score of 6-3. The referees had to be escorted off the field because the Wisconsin fans were livid! As a result of that controversial play, the rule was changed in 1924 so that a play was terminated when any ball carrier hit the ground – period!
In the final game of the 1923 season, Rockwell caught a 31-yard touchdown pass which helped push Michigan to a 10-0 victory over Minnesota. The Wolverines finished the season with a perfect record of 8 wins and 0 losses. They ended the conference season with a record of 4-0-0. The Maize and Blue footballers earned the Big Ten championship and the National championship at the end of the season.
Tod Rockwell’s “exploits” earned him the starting quarterback job for his new coach, George Little. Rockwell started every game in 1924 (7 at quarterback and 1 at left halfback). He ed the Wolverines to a record of 6 wins and 2 losses. One of those losses was the Illinois game where Red Grange ran “wild” against Michigan. As it turned out, Rockwell was Michigan’s leading scorer in 1924 with seventy-seven points. He finished second in Big Ten scoring, just one point behind the All-American Red Grange!
As much as I like his story, Tod Rockwell would not be the subject of today’s post if he was not connected to some Michigan Football “firsts.” Here are the best ones I could find for Mr. Rockwell:
· Played in the first game in Michigan football history against the Quantico Marines in 1923.
· Scored a touchdown on his first play as a Michigan football player against the Quantico Marines in 1923.
· Was the first Michigan player to cause a change in the rules of college football in 1924.
· Played on the first, and only, team to be coached by George Little in 1924.
· Played in the first game in Michigan football history against Miami of Ohio in 1924.
So, today is a good day to honor the memory of a Michigan Man and appreciate his contributions to Michigan football. Tod Rockwell only played two years of varsity football for the Wolverines, but he made them count! He helped Michigan win 14 games and earned two varsity letters and a couple championships to boot! Thanks to men like Ferdinand “Tod” Rockwell, The University of Michigan has the winningest football program in the history of college football. May Tod Rockwell always rest in peace! Go Blue!