IRON MOUNTAIN – St. Ignace’s Barry Pierson, one of the stars from probably the greatest game in University of Michigan history, links emotion to football success.
Pierson must have been at an emotional high for the Wolverines’ 24-12 upset of top-ranked Ohio State on Nov. 22, 1969. The cornerback picked off three passes and returned a punt 60 yards to the Ohio State 3.
“Everyone played 150 percent for four quarters that day,” Pierson told Steve Kornacki, author of “Go Blue!: Michigan’s Greatest Football Stories” (Triumph). “Bo (Schembechler) had us ready to do anything. I never experienced anything else like that day.”
Pierson “stiff-armed and danced his way” on the punt return. Legendary Michigan broadcaster Bob Ufer said of Pierson: “Going down that mod sod like a penguin with a hot herring in his cummerbund.”
The unbeaten, defending national champion Buckeyes entered the game as 17-point favorites with a 22-game winning streak.
“People still bring up that game all the time,” said Pierson, who later coached at St. Ignace High School and went up against Forest Park and Iron Mountain in state playoff games. “I was completely exhausted when it was over and wanted to lie down on the field and rest. But I didn’t come down off that high for three or four weeks.”
“Go Blue!” tackles two other items of local interest – former coach Lloyd Carr and running back Tyrone Wheatley.
Before Carr guided the Wolverines to a national championship, he quarterbacked Northern Michigan University to a perfect 1967 season. Carr played for Dan Devine at Missouri and transferred to NMU as a senior. He graduated with a degree in education.
“… One of the most honorable people I’ve met in athletics,” Kornacki noted.
There’s other great stories when Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller coached the Wolverines.
Wheatley powered Dearborn Heights Robichaud past Kingsford 21-7 for the 1990 Class B state championship. Wheatley, now an NFL assistant coach and father of a future college football star, turned in his share of great U-M games.
“I learned you never, ever give up around your teammates,” Wheatley said.
Kornacki, who covered Michigan football for the Detroit Free Press and The Ann Arbor News, tracked down former players and coaches for the book. His extensive research and dedication to covering U-M football are evident.
To borrow a line from Triumph Publishing: “This collection is something no Michigan football fan will want to be without.”