[Ed. In honor of national signing day 2014, Sap is back with a little story of how Bo nabbed the nation’s #1 quarterback.]

Steve Smith Michigan QB

Guest post by Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis

A few hours ago one of the nation’s top recruits, Jabrill Peppers, sent over his LOI and Michigan fans from coast to coast rejoiced.  Did you know there was a time when Bo Schembechler landed the nation’s top high school quarterback?

This quarterback was so talented (4.5 speed and a cannon for an arm) that every major college wanted him.   By most accounts he was the #2 overall high school recruit in the entire country.  But there was just one problem – he wasn’t exactly sold on going to Michigan.

Bill McCartney was assigned the recruiting responsibility to bring him to Ann Arbor but the QB had his mind made up – he was going to go to (/gasp!) Michigan State. The Spartans had just beaten Bo a few years earlier in Michigan Stadium and MSU’s passing scheme was exactly the type of offense this recruit wanted to play in.

When Coach Mac reported back to Bo that he couldn’t change this prized recruit’s mind, The General realized it was time for this QB to have a face to face with Coach Schembechler.   Bo went to this player’s high school and waited for him in a room while the Principal went and pulled this student-athlete from his class.

Finally, Bo had him right where he wanted him.

Bo saw the talent, the speed, the arm – this kid had it all. The dual-threat possibilities raced through Bo’s option-offense-oriented mind.  But when the kid told Bo he wanted to go to MSU because he wanted to throw the ball, Bo knew he was losing him.

Bo promised the phenom that he could play both football AND baseball at Michigan. Oh, ya – the kid was a great baseball player as well.

But nope.  ‘East Lansing here I come.’ was all this recruit was thinking.

Then Schembechler did something that finally made this QB realize how badly the coach wanted him at Michigan.  Bo got on his hands and knees and CRAWLED across the table and told this kid, as only The General could, that he was going to go to MICHIGAN!

And just like that, Steve Smith from Grand Blanc, MI decided to attend U-M on a football scholarship in 1980.  The #1 high school recruit that year?  Some running back named Herschel Walker:

Athlon's top 100 football recruits 1980 A list of future college HOF’ers for sure, lol.  #41 is on the all-time all-football all-name team forever though.


Great stuff Sap!

P.S. Here’s a favorite recruiting story of mine told to me back in 2009 by the great Mark Messner:

MVictors: So you weren’t a big U-M guy, how did Michigan get into the picture?
Mark Messner: I came back from my visit to UCLA, it was late December 1984.   My folks picked me up at the airport and I told them on the way home that I was going to be a Bruin.  I couldn’t imagine why I wouldn’t go there.  My parents were both happy and sad.  UCLA had the most beautiful campus I had ever seen.  People on campus are lying around in bathing suits on manicured lawns studying.  I couldn’t imagine why I wouldn’t go there.

But Coach Moeller and Coach Bo knew UCLA was my last visit.  So when my parents and I pulled up the house on the way back from the airport, there was this Delta 88 by the side of the driveway.  It was like 9 o’clock at night and getting dark.  The doors of the car opened up and out stepped Moeller and Bo.

Bo walks over, hands me a tape and says [Messner in perfect Bo voice]: “You’re a Michigan man and you belong at Michigan.”  That was it.  He didn’t come in the house, they just took off.  I couldn’t believe he came back up there.

I was in bed that night and I was thinking about the big picture, because now the recruiting was over.  I told [Coach Terry] Donahue before I left UCLA that I was a Bruin.  I didn’t sign anything, but I did tell him that I couldn’t see how I’m not a Bruin.

My dad was fighting cancer at the time.  I was thinking, “Wow, I’ve got Michigan in my backyard.  How many games might my dad be able to see at UCLA?”  So I did the very manly thing as a young adult: I called in the middle of the night and told UCLA I wasn’t coming knowing there’d be no way they’d answer the phone [laughs].   In the morning I told my mom and dad that I formalized everything and told them I’d be a Wolverine.  My mom, being a mom, said, “I thought they were called Bruins.”  I told her, “Mom, I’m going to Michigan.”

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30. September 2013 · Comments Off on Dr. Sap’s Decals: When the Decals Returned · Categories: 2013 · Tags: , , ,

Ed. The Decals don’t stop just because it’s a bye week.  Here’s Steve “Dr. Sap” Sapardanis with a guest post and a little decal history:

After a two-year hiatus, award decals returned to the Michigan helmets in 1985.   Bo removed them from the helmets after the 1982 season because he felt there was not enough emphasis and focus on The Team, so off they came.

helmet decals Michigan still kept track of them for the 1983 and ’84 seasons, but in 1985 somebody convinced Bo to put the decals back on the helmets. (My guess is that somebody was Jim Harbaugh, but that is a story for another time.)

When Bo first debuted them in 1969, the decals were crudely shaped footballs that were more orange than yellow in color.  In 1975, a snarling Wolverine head was added while the shape became more rounded and elliptical.  Ten years later, the now more spheroid-shaped footballs centered the Wolverine head on them and added laces.

The 1985 season was a great year for Michigan and that team will forever be remembered for having one of the best defenses in U=M history.

As a result, it should come as no surprise that the top two decal award winners came from that side of the ball.

All-American Mike Hammerstein had 48 decals on his helmet at the end of the season in the Fiesta Bowl and Mark Messner had 44:

1985 Michigan Defense

But one player was not thrilled about the decals.  Senior co-captain and All-American defensive back Brad Cochran had ZERO decals on his helmet.

Why?  He told me several years ago that he “didn’t want to put anything on that beautiful helmet.”


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A few sights from Saturday pregame and postgame:

  So during pregame, the Spartan kickers ran over to the U-M (north) side of the field.  Gibby trotted over to keep an eye on things.


Dantonio took the field with a smirk as he was thoroughly abused by the tunnel taunters

You can’t get the half boar, half rat hat at Moe’s (yet)


Bell checking out the new fangled shiny helmets.  Not a fan but they did look better on TV (and even in this photo).  In person it looked like the shade of green was much lighter.



Many former football greats were on hand, including Mark Messner (above) who no doubt recalled his epic battles with Michigan State’s Tony Mandarich


 1 wards
Honoring Willis Ward on the 78th anniversary of the Georgia Tech game.  Props to John U. Bacon for first writing about the story, and Brian and Buddy at Stunt3 for the wonderful Black and Blue documentary.   Speaking of Brian – you can hear our live edition of This Week in Michigan Football History from Saturday right here


At this point Fowler figured it was time to GTFO


Lewan and Gholston smokem peace pipe after the game

e 2 mealer bunyan

Photos:  mgoblog
Photos: MBN
Photos: AnnArbor.com
Photos: Michigan Daily

Photos: UMGoBlue pics


  • Dr. Sap’s Decals – Michigan State!
  • By A Hair!
  • TWIWMFbH – Live! Willis Ward, Gerald Ford and 1932
  • Willis Ward Blitz
  • Living Legacy: Interview with U-M Senior Melanie Ward