With Brian Griese poised to start for the Chicago Bears, I thought I’d take a look at the old 1997 Michigan Wolverines. In 1997, the Wolverines were undefeated and led by Charles Woodson. Woodson, an Ohio native, won the Heisman, the Nagurski and the Thorpe awards. He played both ways and led the team to victories over Ohio State and Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Michigan won a lot of close games that year and did not have as many style points as the Nebraska Cornhuskers, but the did defeat everyone on their schedule. It was a long time ago, but there are more players than you might expect who are still in the NFL and who are still productive. Here’s the list (not in any particular order).
- Steve Hutchinson, Guard, Minnesota Vikings
- Charles Woodson, Cornerback, Green Bay Packers
- Ian Gold, Linebacker, Denver Broncos
- Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots
- Jay Feely, Kicker, Miami Dolphins
- Maurice Williams, Tackle, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Dhani Jones, Linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals
- James Hall, Defensive End, St. Louis Rams
- Jon Jansen, Tackle, Washington Redskins
- Anthony Thomas, Running Back, Buffalo Bills
- Jeff Backus, Tackle, Detroit Lions
- Jerame Tuman, Tight End, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Mark Campbell, Tight End, New Orleans Saints
- Brian Griese, Quarterback, Chicago Bears
Until recently, this list also included Aaron Shea, longtime fullback for the Cleveland Browns, William Peterson (cornerback) and Josh Williams (defensive tackle). That is a surprising number of players. Admittedly not all of these players began their NFL careers in 1998, but of the 39 Michigan players on NFL rosters, nearly half played on this team. It was a tremendous accomplishment to win a national championship. Perhaps it is even more impressive that so many of those players have managed to survive the rigors of the NFL for so long.