The purpose of today’s blog is to wish a very Happy Birthday to “Michigan Man” Mike Lemirande. Michael “Mike” Lemirande was born on this day in Wisconsin. Lemirande was an All-American high school football player from Grafton High School in Grafton, Wisconsin. He was an outstanding athlete who earned nine-varsity letters in four high school sports. However, football was his best and that level of excellence earned him a scholarship from Bo Schembechler in 1978.
Mike was listed as an Outside Linebacker/Strong Safety on the 1978 Michigan Football Roster. At 6’ 4” and 205 pounds, the coaches weren’t exactly sure where he would play. If he was fast enough, he could be a “Hammer” at Strong Safety, but maybe he would “bulk-up” and become a big-time linebacker. So, Lemirande did what a lot of freshman did in Bo’s program, he burned his red-shirt and went to work in the weight room with “Big Mike” Gittleson and his staff.
Mike Lemirande worked hard and came back in 1979 with 219 pounds and some more muscle packed on his rangy frame. He did not earn any starts that season, but he played enough to earn his first varsity letter. He recorded 9 tackles (8 solo and 1 assist). Michigan posted a record of 8 wins and 4 losses in 1979. All four losses were by three points or less. They finished third in the conference, but oh, what might have been! The bad news was that Michigan had lost two straight games to end the season and Bo was not happy about it!
Interestingly, while Mike Lemirande was trying to beat out future All-American Mel Owens for a starting linebacker job, Michigan lost two straight games after winning the home opener in 1980. Bo had seen enough! Michigan had now lost four of five games dating back to the last three games of 1979 and the first two games in 1980. Not only did he change quarterbacks (Hewlett-the runner) to (Wangler-the passer), he changed his entire offense! Bo decided it was time to scrap the option offense that had served him so well since 1969. Instead, he went to a pro-style offense that would feature a more balanced attack. The quarterback would be throwing more and running less. Bo’s new offense sputtered in the first week against South Carolina and the Wolverines lost 14-17. Then everything started to click and the Wolverine won nine straight games.
Unfortunately for Mike, he didn’t win the starting job at OLB. However, he served as a very solid back-up to Owens in 1980. Lemirande did earn one start against California when Owens was out with an injury. He was named the Defensive Hustler for his work in that game. Mike played a lot in 1980 on Michigan’s outstanding defense and on special teams. He made 13 tackles in 1980 (9 solo and 4 assists) and earned his second letter and a Rose Bowl ring! Michigan finished the season with a record of 10 wins and 2 losses and won the Big Ten Championship with a record of 8 wins and 0 losses.
Mike continued to work hard and came back in 1981 ready to compete for the OLB job that Owens vacated. He did earn two starts that season, but was not the full-time starter. Mike recorded a career best 16 tackles in 1981 (9 solo and 7 assists). Once again, he played a lot of good football, but probably didn’t get as many snaps as he would have like. Lemirande earned his third varsity letter on the 1981 team that finished the season with a final record of 9 wins and 3 losses. They ended the conference season with a record of 6-3-0 which was only good enough for third place. Mike finished his career in 1982 with 5 more tackles and helped the Wolverines win 8 more games.
Like so many Michigan Men before him, Mike Lemirande loved the game of football. He came to Michigan on a scholarship and competed for playing time with some outstanding players during his five years. He left Ann Arbor with his degree and his head held high! Lemirande moved on with four varsity letters, three Big Ten Championships, a ton of memories, and some friendships that would last a lifetime. He was also part of some interesting “firsts” during his time at Michigan.
- Mike Lemirande helped Michigan win the 1980 Big Ten Championship (8-0-0) which meant that Michigan remained as the first, and only, team in conference history to win a title in every decade of conference play.
- Mike, and his teammates gave Bo Schembechler his first bowl win in the 1981 Rose Bowl (23-6) against Washington.
- Mike Lemirande also played in the first game in Michigan Football history against South Carolina in 1980.
- Mike also played in the first nine game Big Ten season in Michigan Football history in 1982. (Michigan won the championship with a record of 8-1-0)
- When Mike Lemirande and his teammates won the Blue Bonnett Bowl on December 31, 1981, it marked the first time that a Michigan team and Bo won two bowl games in the same calendar year! Of course, this was also the first time that Bo had won back-to-back bowl games!
So, congratulations Mike Lemirande on your achievements on and off the field. Mike is still “giving back” to Michigan Football through his participation in Clay Miller’s mentoring group that works with Wolverines who are getting to graduate and work in the “real world.”
Thanks to Mike Lemirande for his contributions to the very long Maize and Blue line that dates all the way back to 1879! I wish you a very BIG Maize and Blue Happy Birthday! I hope you enjoy your special day today. Go Blue!