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Michigan's Mount Rushmore: Bob Chappuis

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Runner. Passer. Airman. Michigan Legend. This is Bob Chappuis and he belongs on Michigan's Mount Rushmore.

Public domain image from 1947 University of Michigan yearbook, Michiganensian.

MnB alongside the rest of the SB Nation family of B1G communities will work with BTN to determine which four names will go on each team's "Mount Rushmore" of names.

All candidates must fit the following criteria:

  1. Football only.
  2. Former student-athletes only.
  3. On-field accomplishments while in college only.
  4. Particular student-athletes were removed from consideration due to off-field activity and/or criminal activity.

With these rules in mind we are tasked with an impossible challenge: filtering through the century of Wolverine Excellence to find just four players who best define Michigan Football. That is just four names out of three Heisman Trophy winners, 17 Big Ten MVP's and 127 All-Americans who worked to win 915 games, 42 conference titles and 11 National Championships. How could anybody ever select a single player to stand above the rest? How about starting with an All-American, Rose Bowl MVP who brought home 23 Wins, a National Championship and a victory in World War II. This is Bob Chappuis.

Born in Toledo, OH on February 24th, 1923 Robert "Bob" Chappuis would follow a path to Michigan seen throughout its history. Much like Bo Schembechler and Trey Burke long after him, Chappuis would spurn the draw of the Buckeyes and head north to join the Wolverines encouraged by a father who insisted he go anywhere but Columbus.

As a freshman for the Wolverines, Chappuis found himself buried on the depth chart behind another excellent Michigan halfback: Tom Harmon. Fortunately for Chappuis, the Heisman-Winner was drafted and Chappuis was left as the starting halfback. His first season showed promise, as he ran for 220 yards, threw for 358 and caught one pass for 30 yards. In his first game Chappuis completed a rare SEVEN passes against the Great Lakes Naval Station, something Tom Harmon only did three times at Michigan.

Unfortunately Michigan fans would not see his potential develop next season as he was quickly drafted... by the United States Army Air Services.

Bob Chappuis served his country in the European Theatre from 1943 to 1945. During his time he reached the rank of Lieutenant while flying 21 missions as the radio operator and aerial gunner on a B-25 Bomber. One his 21st mission Chappuis' plane would be shot down by flak over the Italian mountains, but not before Chappuis and crew jumped and escaped with their lives. Chappuis would then spend the next 3 months hiding in German held territory with a group of Italian resistance fighters before returning to the States after V-E day.

Now the criteria does specifically state that on-field accomplishments while in college only are the only criteria but I can't imagine ignoring Bob Chappuis' time spent serving our country. His service alone would be enough to place him on many school's Mount Rushmore, but Michigan has a long history and it is easy for names to get lost in the shuffle... which is why he came back.

Chappuis would return to Ann Arbor after being discharged from the military just in time for baseball season. With no football or global conflict to address, Chappuis decided he dabble at baseball and led the Wolverines in hitting while winning the Big Nine Championship behind a 26-game win streak. No biggie.

That fall Chappuis would return to the gridiron and join the other returning veterans being whipped into football shape by the classic coaches like Fitz Crisler. Despite being away from the game, family and country for several years, Chappuis racked up 1,284 total yards, a conference record at the time. Naturally, he set this record while playing the entire season with a fractured wrist he never even bothered to tape. Iron man doesn't do him justice.

Unfortunately for Michigan he was drafted yet again, but this by the Detroit Lions. Chappuis refused the offer however, and returned to Ann Arbor to finish his education.

What follows was one of the best seasons in Michigan's storied history. Despite starting the season as "questionable" following the horror that was 1947 wrist surgery, Chappuis broke his own record 1,405 yards. That year Chappuis led the so-called "Mad Magicians" (due to this crazy idea of passing) to a 10-0 record including a 55-0 win over MSU in the season opener. In his last home game against Ohio State he set a single game offensive record that would last until 1967, with 90 yards on the ground and an almost modern looking 12 of 27 for 217 through the air in route to a 21-0 win. He ended the season by throwing for two touchdowns during a 49-0 laugher against USC in Pasadena.

Chappuis' efforts brought a Conference Title and a National Championship to Ann Arbor. He would go on to finish second in the Heisman voting to Johnny Lujack (lucky Notre Dame QB) and set a conference record for passer rating that stands to this day. His efforts on the football field and the field of battle are something every Michigan fan should be proud of and there is no doubt in my mind that he is one of the greatest football players to ever walk the streets of Ann Arbor. After all, on a Michigan team known as the "Mad Magician" no one player, and arguably none sense, were as Magic as Bob Chappuis.

Cast your vote for Michigan's Mount Rushmore at BTN.com.