Per Bruce Madej of U-M Media Relations:

Bill Yearby died on Dec. 20th after a long illness.  His funeral is tomorrow Weds. Dec. 29 at 9 a.m. at the James H. Coles Funeral Home o at 2624 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, Michigan  48202. 

Bill Yearby, an All-American defensive tackle for the University of Michigan Wolverines football team from 1963-1965, died on Dec. 20th after a long illness. Yearby attended Detroit’s Eastern High School, where he was the Class A state champion in the shot put in 1962 and All-State in football. He was an All-American at defensive tackle for U-M in both 1964 and 1965 and was named the Wolverines’ Most Valuable Player in 1965.Bump Elliott’s 1964 team won the Big Ten Conference and played in the Rose Bowl. Yearby was a first round draft choice of the New York Jets.

I chatted with Jim Conley, captain of the ‘64 squad and ‘65 Rose Bowl champions who shared the following statement on Yearby:

Bill Yearby was a remarkable man.  As a 2 time all American, we all know he could play football.  But, as a teammate, you could never ask for a better leader.  Bill wasn’t vocal.  He led by example.  He was dedicated to the team and his teammates. 

At a time when campuses all over America were in turmoil, Bill provided a calming grace. His demeanor was that of a lamb, and his heart was that of a lion or should I say wolverine.  By the way Bill played, he set the tone for all who played around him.  As Captain, I could count on Bill to have  my back at every turn.  On the campus or on the field, Bill was the best friend you could have.

Late in life he faced a lot of adversity.  Through it all, he didn’t complain nor did he quit. In the end it was that big powerful heart that finally let him down.  We will miss Bill and hopefully he is in a better place.  In 1968, Ron Johnson became the first black captain of the Wolverines.  Bill, his teammates and coaches, paved the way for this event. 

In 1964, we all new that on the playing field, Bill was always in charge.  Go Blue!


Bentley page on Yearby.


  1. Our sincere condolences to you and to the Yearby family.

  2. Bill Yearby was not only one of the nicest guys you would want to meet, but he had a smile like I may never see again — incandescent. Being around him was like basking in sunshine.

  3. bob densham 66 because

    Billand I were track team mates. He was like Ron Kramer in many respects. Football, of course. He probably could have started on the championship basketball team. He scored in the Big Ten track meet. For all his success, it never affected him. To me, he was one of the nicest people I’ve known. In 1965, Bill took me for a ride home in his new Buick Riviera he got for signing with the Jets. In 1988 , the Big Ten track meet was in a2. I sat with Don Canham to catch up on a 20 years. We talked about Bill , Don said no one had seen him in a long time. After I left Don , I walked out the Ferry Field gate.Like magic A big man said “I know you. It was Bill and his truly beautiful daughter. I told him of the dinner to honor Don that evening… I was hopinghe would attend. But he never showed. I think of that day often and wish that somewhere along the line, he reconnected with the “U”