Wow – today is a great day to remember the Happy Birthday Anniversary of a Wolverine named Joe Ponsetto. Joseph “Joe” Ponsetto was born on this day in 1926. I think he was born in Flint, Michigan, but I have been unable to verify that fact. He became a sports star in Flint and Flint is listed as his hometown on the Michigan Football Rosters for 1943, 1944 and 1945.
Joe Ponsetto came to The University of Michigan in the Fall of 1943 to continue his education and his football career. Because the “war years” made it hard for some schools to field football teams freshmen could play − if they were good enough! Seventeen-year-old Joe Ponsetto was good enough to play back-up quarterback for the Wolverines during the 1943 season. He did not start any games, but he did earn a letter on Fritz Crisler’s first Big Ten Championship team. The 1943 edition of the Michigan football team finished with a final record of 8 wins and 1 loss. They claimed the trophy with a perfect league record of 6-0-0.
Ponsetto’s college football career was off to a great start. Joe was back on the field in the fall of 1944 and he earned the starting quarterback job. The talented Ponsetto started all ten games at quarterback and led Michigan to an excellent record of 8 wins and 2 losses. The Wolverines posted a conference record of 5-2-0 which earned them a second-place finish in the Big Nine. Interestingly, Joe Ponsetto served as an “acting” co-captain (along with Don Lund) in 1944 because elected captain Bob Wiese left for military service. He earned the respect of his teammates because Joe was elected as the captain for the 1945 team. Ponsetto also earned All-Conference honors for his stellar play in 1944.
Captain Joe Ponsetto was back for the 1945 season. He started six games before a knee injury in the Illinois game caused him to lose his job. Joe had some major knee surgery, but he was hopeful that he would be able to return for his senior year. The Wolverines finished the season with a record of 7 wins and 3 losses. For the second straight season, they finished in 2nd place in the conference with a final record of 5 wins and 1 loss.
As it turned out, Joe’s injury was more serious than he thought. He tried to come back in 1945, but his doctor’s advised against. So, Joe Ponsetto had an excellent, but shortened career football at Michigan. He started sixteen games and played a ton of good football for the Maize and Blue. Ponsetto earned three varsity letters and played on a championship team. He also earned some Big Ten honors along the way. Of course, his election to the team captain role speaks volumes about his leadership.
Joe Ponsetto was part of some excellent teams in his career and he was also part of some interesting “football firsts.” Here are some of the best ones I could find for Joe Ponsetto:
- Played on the Fritz Crisler’s first Big Ten Championship team in 1943.
- Played on the first, and only, Big Nine/Ten team to win at least one conference title in the first six decades of conference play in 1943.
- Joe Ponsetto was one of the first two men, along with Don Lund, to serve as co-captain of a Michigan football team in 1994. All previous teams had a single captain.
- Joe played in the first night game at Marquette in 1944.
- Ponsetto played in the first ever game against Army in 1945.
Today is absolutely a great day to remember Joe Ponsetto who passed away on November 24, 2004 at the age of seventy-eight. He, and his teammates, helped grow the legend of Michigan football. Please take a moment to appreciate Joe Ponsetto’s contributions to Michigan football. Mr. Ponsetto was elected to the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. May Joe Ponsetto always rest in peace! Go Blue!
To learn more about Joe Ponsetto check out the links below: