My favorite college football player when I was in high school was #28 Robert W. “Bob” Timberlake.
Bob Timberlake came to Ann Arbor in 1961 from Franklin, Ohio. He came to play quarterback for Bump Elliott. After two straight winning seasons in 1960 and 1961, Michigan was looking forward to another winning season in 1962. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.
The 1962 season began with a loss to Nebraska and then a win over Army. The wheels started to fall off as the Wolverines lost four straight conference games. They got their only conference win against Illinois before losing the last two games to Iowa and Ohio State. The fourth year of the Bump Elliott Era ended at 2 wins, 7 losses and 0 ties. It was easily the worst season of his tenure. Bump told reporters at his initial press conference that it would take five years to get Michigan back to championship level football. Now, everyone was wondering if the Wolverines would get there in eight!
The only good news about the 1962 season for Sophomore Bob Timberlake was that he won the starting quarterback job after three or four games. Both Junior Bob Chandler and Senior Dave Glinka had their opportunities to lead the team, but Coach Elliott settled on young Timberlake. Although Timberlake didn’t take the Wolverines on any long winning streaks, he was solid. Bob Timberlake made noticeable progress during the season. He received the John Maulbetsch Award at the end of the season which validated his improved play and his potential for excellence at Michigan and beyond.
The 1963 season (Bump Elliott’s fifth) was better than 1962, but not by much. Key players were lost in pre-season practice and in some of the early games. The coaches spent a lot of time visiting injured players in the hospital in addition to coaching the team. The offense, led by Bob Timberlake, scored one-hundred-thirty-one points which was a sixty-one-point improvement form 1962. The defense was also a lot better. They gave up one-hundred twenty-seven points in 1962 compared to two-hundred fourteen in 1962. The Wolverines were shutout in four games in 1962, but scored in every game but one in 1963. Michigan finished the 1963 season with a record of 3 wins, 4 losses and 2 ties. Not exactly championship caliber football, but improved play in many areas. If the Wolverines could stay healthy in 1964, they might put together a pretty good season.
Michigan returned a strong cast of experienced and healthy veterans in 1964. Hopes were high in Ann Arbor. Senior Bob Timberlake and his teammates lived up to the hype and the expectations and came within two points of a perfect season. The 1964 Michigan football team was special. It remains one of the best teams in Maize and Blue football history. The Wolverines finished the season with a record of 9 wins, 1 loss and 0 ties. They won the conference champions hip for the first time since 1950 and won the Rose Bowl by a score of 34-7.
Bob Timberlake had an amazing season. He ran, passed, and kicked his team to within two points of a perfect season. He totaled 1,515 yards in total offense which was the second best in Michigan football history at that time. The Wolverine offense scored in every game and put a total of two-hundred thirty-five points on the board. The defense only allowed eighty-three points all season − the best in the Elliott Era.
Bob Timberlake’s stellar season earned him the Michigan Most Valuable Player Award as well as the Big Ten MVP Award for the 1964 season. He earned selection to numerous All-American teams as well as the Big Ten All-Conference team. He was also a pretty smart guy and that earned him a spot on the Big Ten’s All-Academic team. Oh, by the way, he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting too!
Bob Timberlake was a strong leader who was on a mission to win a championship. Once he earned the starting quarterback job in 1962, he didn’t stop until he had reached his goal. Bob Timberlake left a wonderful legacy for all Michigan quarterbacks who followed him. Congratulations Bob Timberlake on your outstanding Michigan career. I hope you have a joyful day on your special day today. Happy Birthday and Go Blue!
You can learn more about the life and times of Bob Timberlake by checking out the links below. He was truly a man for all seasons, especially the 1964 season at Michigan!