The coaches did a nice thing at the start of the spring game on Saturday: they recognized the annual spring award winners. One of those presented was the Meyer Morton Award which went to senior Will Johnson. Here’s more from the official site, with the history of the winners and some history:
The Meyer Morton Award, established by the ‘M’ Club of Chicago in 1925, is given to the football player who shows the greatest development and most promise as a result of the annual spring practice. Morton, a 1912 Michigan graduate, was a lawyer in Chicago from 1915-48 and served as a Big Ten football official for 23 years.
This is the oldest individual award given by the football program and its winners include the late Gerald Ford. I actually found this pic of Ford with the award (1932) when researching a post after his death:
You may have picked up this mention on the great mgoblog within Brian’s spring practice post today:
Will Johnson won kind of a weird award for a fifth-year senior and returning starter to pick up.
Brian’s right. It’s a little weird for a 5th year senior to be getting this award. I’m still digging for the reference, but I’m 90% sure I read somewhere that this honored was originally reserved for underclassman.
Take Ford for instance. The late president won the honor in 1932, a great year for Michigan football but Ford wasn’t really active on the actual team yet. He didn’t captain the team until two years later during the miserable season of 1934 [a.k.a. the Really Great Depression for M historians].
Looking briefly through the history of the award, it looks like it was presented to underclassman until the 1950s, then you started to see a few juniors take the award. In the 60s up through Bo and Lloyd Carr you start to see a mix of seniors and juniors. The last few years it’s gone to 5th year seniors (Henne last year, Breaston in 2006, & so on).
So the interpretation of the award changed over years and Saturday’s press release on mgoblue.com confirms it. It defines the award as “the Meyer Morton Award, granted to the senior football player that experienced the greatest development and showed the most promise during spring practice”. [Emphasis added]
I don’t know when that changed or why this changed, but it did. Quoting Brian, it’s definitely “weird”.
Now, I completely realize that no one really gives a crap about any of this. But— someone’s got to keep an eye on the tradition here, and an award that’s been given out since the 1920s matters. Rodriguez probably hasn’t even unpacked the stuff in his office yet and he thankfully handed out these awards. Certainly Coach Rod just followed Carr’s lead by giving this to a senior. I’d like to know why it changed and I’m guessing that Coach Carr has the answer.