Today’s post honors the untimely passing (November 20, 2010) of a legendary Michigan Man named Rob Lytle. Robert William “Rob” Lytle played for Bo Schembechler from 1973 to 1976. At the end of Rob Lytle’s career Schembechler would declare that Lytle “was the greatest back I ever coached.”
Rob Lytle played in the day before freshman were eligible to play. So, he spent the 1973 season on the junior varsity according to the 1973 Michigan Team Roster.
Once he got on the field, he stayed on the field. Lytle started eight games at tailback in 1974. He logged one hundred-forty carries and gained just over eight hundred (802). He averaged 5.7 yards per carry on a team that won ten of eleven games and tied for the Big Ten Championship. At the end of the season, he was selected as the John Maulbetsch Award winner for his outstanding play.
Rob Lytle’s junior season really proved his mettle. He switched from tailback to fullback and saw his numbers go up (193 carries and 1,030 rushing yards). He shared the ball with the talented Gordon Bell. They formed a powerful tandem for the Wolverines which helped drive Michigan to eight wins and two ties in twelve games. The Wolverines finished second in the conference that year with a record of 7 wins and 1 loss. Gordon Bell, thanks in large part to the self-less blocking of Lytle, was named team MVP for the 1975 season.
The 1976 season was spectacular for Senior Rob Lytle and the Wolverines. He was named a tri-captain along with Kirk Lewis and Calvin O’Neal. Bo decided to keep Rob at fullback most of the time, but he also played three games at tailback. Lytle carried the ball over two hundred times (221) for just under fifteen hundred yards (1,469) and set a new Michigan record for rushing yards in a single season. He rushed for fourteen touchdowns and caught two more scoring passes for a total of sixteen touchdowns in a single season. This total tied him with Heisman Winner Tom Harmon who achieved the same number in 1940.
Michigan won ten of twelve games and tied for the Big Ten Championship. They spent eight weeks as the top ranked team in the country until they were upset at Purdue by a score of 14-16. The season ended on a low note as the Wolverines lost (6-14) to Southern California in the Rose Bowl.
I could write another three-thousand-words about the Michigan career of Rob Lytle. He was that good! Lytle was a hard-working member of some very good Michigan teams. By the time he graduated, he was one of the most honored Wolverines in Michigan football history. Rob Lytle was a unanimous All-American in 1976 as well as a first team All-Big Ten player. He won the Most Valuable Player Award at Michigan and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind winner Tony Dorsett and Ricky Bell.
Rob Lytle’s name is all over the Michigan Record Book! He averaged 92.1 yards per game which is still sixth best in Michigan Football History. His 5.96 yards per carry average is still fourth best all-time at Michigan. He had eight one-hundred-yard rushing games in 1976 (6th Best) and fifteen for his career (7th Best). Rob scored four touchdowns in a game against Indiana in 1975. He saved his best performance for the Spartans when he rushed ten times for one-hundred-eighty yards. He scored on the longest run of his career (75 yards) in that 42-10 win over Sparty. Lytle averaged eighteen yards per carry that day which is one of the best rushing performances ever at Michigan. Rob Lytle finished his Michigan football career as the all-time leader in rushing with a total of 3,307 yards.
Bottom line − not too many players accomplished as much in a career as Rob Lytle. His outstanding career was recognized in 2015 when he was posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
After college, Lytle played seven years in the National Football League for the Denver Broncos. He was the first man to score a touchdown in the Rose Bowl and the Super Bowl.
Sadly, Rob Lytle died on this date in 2010. At the time of his death, it was believed that he was in the early stages of suffering from the effects of some concussions he sustained over the course of his career. So, today is a good day to remember Rob Lytle. It is also a time to press for more research and action that will make the game of football safer at all levels. May Michigan Man Rob Lytle always rest in peace!
To read more about the life and times of Rob Lytle check out the links below.