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Posted on Sat, Sep 10, 2011 : 9:29 p.m.

Desmond Howard honored as inaugural 'Michigan Football Legend'

By Nick Baumgardner


Former Michigan wide receiver and Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard, left, laughs with Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon at the center of the field before the Notre Dame at Michigan football game.

Angela J. Cesere |

Michigan didn’t retire Desmond Howard’s No. 21 Saturday night.

Instead, the school immortalized it.

The university announced prior to its first home night contest against Notre Dame that Howard will become an inaugural “Michigan Football Legend.”

The former Heisman Trophy-winning Wolverine receiver will be honored at Michigan forever, as his No. 21 jersey - currently worn by wide receiver Junior Hemingway - will now always come with a patch on the upper left chest featuring Howard's name.


Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway's No. 21 jersey was adorned with a new Desmond Howard patch.

Joseph Tobianski I

“This is a great way to honor our legends,” Michigan athletic director David Brandon said in a statement. “Desmond will be the first in what will become a unique way to honor some of our Michigan football greats.

“Many of our current fans and players don’t know or remember the five jerseys that we previously retired and who wore them. The concept is a visible representations of iconic figures in our program’s storied history that fans across the country will see every Saturday.”

The legendary former Wolverine receiver was also presented with his formal College Football Hall of Fame plaque prior to kickoff. Howard also delivered a teary-eyed speech to the capacity crowd following the presentation.

“(My Michigan) experiences make me the man that I am today, a Michigan man,” he said.

In addition to the permanent jersey patch, Howard will be the first Michigan Football Legend to be featured in a soon-to-be renovated Schembechler Hall. Also, all lockers used by a current and future Michigan football No. 21 will be redesigned to commemorate Howard as a “Michigan Football Legend.”

“We are planning to dedicate an area in Schembechler Hall where these iconic figures can be displayed,” Brandon said in a statement. “And Coach (Brady) Hoke and all future Michigan head coaches will assign this historic jersey to a special player who is deserving of the honor to wear Desmond’s No. 21.”

Howard - who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in July - was in Ann Arbor this weekend in part because of his duties as an analyst with ESPN’s College GameDay football kickoff show.

GameDay ultimately chose Ann Arbor as its location this week, but according to Howard, he was going to be in town for Saturday’s historic event regardless.

"When you get inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, it's a three-step process, and one of those steps is for you to be honored at your alma mater,” he said earlier this week. “I didn't get the opportunity to be honored at the University of Michigan last year because of my job with (ESPN "College) GameDay."

"But when I saw that Michigan had scheduled Notre Dame for its first night game, I made up my mind that no matter where 'GameDay' was that weekend - I was going to be on a plane and fly to Michigan to be honored at that game.”

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

I must admit, this is an excellent solution.


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Does everyone realize how brilliant this is? We honor our greats not by removing them from the field, but by recognizing them every time Michigan plays. And perhaps the most meaningful moment will occur when they eventually recognize Gerald Ford's number, for his accomplishments were not limited to the playing field. Another example of what makes Michigan Different.

NC Wolverine 20

Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

If he keeps playing like he did in the 4th Q, some day jersey # 16 will get a Denard Robinson patch.

1st Down

Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 8:01 a.m.

BTW...that #21 above had a pretty heck of a nice game too...

1st Down

Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 5:52 a.m.

I really like this way of honoring special players.. the jersey patch and locker plaque will be passed down to players who wear those numbers for the rest of time... very cool idea

Larry Weisenthal

Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 6:41 a.m.

Well said. Cool idea. Original idea. Classy idea. And Desmond couldn't be more deserving.


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 5:06 a.m.

Awesome. Desmond was one of my childhood heros. This is a fantastic way to honor him and his time playing for Michigan. Go Blue!

David Briegel

Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 4:58 a.m.

I truly like this new idea about the "Legend" to be "immortalized" forever. The Wistert's, Harmon, Oosterban, and so many more need this Honor without taking their numbers out of circulation. Desmond was a great and I hope Woodson is next. What credits they are to the noble tradition of the MICHIGAN MAN!! And yes, the younger fans didn't have a Wally Weber to explain and put into context the accomplishments of that generation. I am so thankful that I got that privilege on several occassions. Not many of the younger fans even know the storied traditions that are represented in the great heritage that is Michigan Football. Combine that legacy in Schembechler Hall with this new idea and the Michigan tradition will continue in perpetuity!


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 5:01 a.m.

huh ?

Bruce Kennedy

Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 3:59 a.m.

30 seconds to go and down by three. With Denard is there any doubt? Instant classic. GO BLUE!!!!!!!!