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Tod Rockwell
Career information
Position(s): Quarterback
College: Michigan

Ferdinand A. "Tod" Rockwell was an American football player and coach. He played quarterback for the University of Michigan in 1923 and 1924. He helped the 1923 Michigan Wolverines football team win a National Championship. He was the head coach of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux football team from 1926-1927 and of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs football team from 1928-1929.

Rockwell was a backup quarterback for Michigan at the start of the 1923 season but got the starting quarterback job after Irwin Uteritz broke his ankle in a game against the Quantico Marines. When Rockwell came into the game against the Marines, Michigan lined up for a field goal with Rockwell holding the ball. As the Marines came through to block the kick, Rockwell jumped to his feet and ran the ball 26 yards for a touchdown. The touchdown run was Rockwell's first play for Michigan's varsity team.[1] The following week, Rockwell played back to receive a kick against Wisconsin. The ball bounced off his chest at the 32-yard line, and Rockwell picked up the loose ball. Rockwell was hit and appeared to be knocked down, but the whistle was not blown and Rockwell continued running 68 yards through a relaxed Wisconsin secondary, which thought the ball was dead. Rockwell scored a touchdown that defeated the Badgers 6 to 3.[1] Years later, Harry Kipke wrote about the play and described Rockwell's "perfect acrobatic somersault" as he appeared to be down but maintained his balance and ran for the winning touchdown.[2]

The following week, Michigan faced Minnesota for the Western Conference championship, and Rockwell caught a pass from Michigan's fullback on his fingertips, juggled the ball, and ran 31 yards for a touchdown that led Michigan to a tie with Illinois for the conference championship.[1] Rockwell's performance in the closing games of the 1923 season led sports writer Billy Evans to write: "Rockwell is one of the best open field runners in the Western Conference. He, more than any other man, saved the Big Ten title for Michigan."[1]

After the 1923 season, another sport writer said of Rockwell: "Through the years Michigan has turned out a bunch of brilliant quarterbacks, 'Boss' Weeks, 'Shorty' McMillan, Tommy Hughitt and Uteritz but Rockwell gives promise of equaling the remarkable performance of all these former celebrities."[3] The 1923 team finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record and has been recognized as the National Champion of 1923 by Billingsley.[4]

Rockwell returned in 1924 as Michigan's starting quarterback. He started seven games at quarterback and one at halfback in leading the Wolverines to a 6-2 record in 1924, including wins over Michigan State (7-0), Wisconsin (21-0), Minnesota (13-0), Northwestern (27-0) and Ohio State (16-6).[5] However, the Wolverines could not stop the Illinois team led by Red Grange, giving up 39 points to Michgan's 14.[5]

After graduating from Michigan, Rockwell coached for four years at of the North Dakota (1926-1927) and Louisiana Tech (1928-1929). Rockwell later became a sports writer for the Detroit Free Press.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Billy Evans (1923-12-08). "Won Fame On First Big Ten Play: A Substitute on the Sidelines Saved the Big X Championship for Michigan". Iowa City Press-Citizen.  
  2. ^ a b Harry Kipke (1935-10-08). "Harry Kipke Gives His Version of 1923 Wisconsin - Michigan Battle: Claims Rockwell Did Somersault as He Was Hit". Wisconsin State Journal.  
  3. ^ "Michigan Quarter Carries Football on His Vacation". Ogden Standard-Examiner. 1924-07-24.  
  4. ^ "1923 Football Team". Univ. of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.  
  5. ^ a b "1924 Football Team". Univ. of Michigan.  


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