Today’s post celebrates the day that Matt Patanelli went to rest in peace in 1992. Matthew Lewis “Matt” Patanelli was seventy-seven years old when he died. Patanelli was born on July 13, 1914 in Elkhart, Indiana. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Matt Patanelli graduated from Elhart High School in 1933 after an outstanding athletic career. He lettered twelve times in football, basketball and track and field. He also captained the football and basketball teams and earned first team All-State honors in football in 1931 and 1932.
Patanelli came to Ann Arbor in 1933 to continue his education and be the best athlete he could be for the Wolverines. Matt did what everybody else did in the mid-1930s. He spent his time on the freshman team and did his best to learn Harry Kipke’s “Michigan Football System.”
Apparently, young Patenelli learned his lessons well in 1933 because he started 7 games (6 at left end and 1 at right end) in 1934. The good news was that he made Harry Kipke’s varsity team and earned his first letter that season. He was also named the winner of the Meyer Morton Award for his outstanding performance in Spring Drills. The bad news was that Kipke’s Wolverines finished the season with a record of 1 win and 7 losses. They were even worse in the conference at 0 wins and 6 losses.
Patanelli came back in 1935 hoping that he would play better and so would the Wolverines. He started all eight games at left end and earned his second letter. He also earned first team All-Conference honors for his excellent play. The Wolverines did post a better record in 1935. They won 4 games and lost 4 games. Michigan finished in a tie for fifth place in the conference with a record of 2-3-0.
Matt Patanelli received a great honor when he was named the captain of the 1936 Michigan football team. He did his best to lead his team despite playing with an injured ankle for the entire season. To be blunt, he was the best player on a pretty bad team. He started all eight games at left end and played as hard as he could. Unfortunately, the Wolverines only won a single game that season and finished with another record of 1 win and 7 losses. Once again, Michigan lost every conference game and finished in a tie for eighth place at 0 5-0.
The highly respected Patanelli was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1936 Michigan Football team. He ended his career with 22 starts and earned 3 varsity letters. He left Ann Arbor in 1937 with the respect of his coaches and his teammates.
Of course, I would not be talking about Matt Patanelli today if he wasn’t part of some Michigan football “firsts.” Here are four that are associated with Captain Patanelli and the Wolverines:
· Matt Patanelli played in the first, and only, Michigan football game against Georgia Tech where a Wolverine player (Willis Ward) was benched because of his race on October 20, 1934. Michigan won the game by a score of 9-2.
· This was also the first, and only, game against Georgia Tech in the history of Michigan Football.
· Patanelli was a member of the first and only Michigan football team to finish with a record of 0-6-0 in Big Ten Conference play in 1934. Ugh!
· Patanelli also played in the first game ever against Columbia in 1935. Michigan won the game19-7.
So, on the twenty-sixth anniversary of his death, let us remember Matthew Lewis Patanelli. He epitomized the spirit of a true, blue Michigan Man. May Matt Patanelli continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!