As a Michigan grad and fan, it’s always a treat to turn on the TV or radio and hear a familiar Wolverine voice providing the sports analysis.
Indeed, our school has had more than its share of former football and basketball players who have gone on to a career in the broadcast booth – including all three of our Heisman Trophy winners; Tom Harmon, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson all found themselves behind a microphone when their playing careers ended.
With that in mind, then, here’s one man’s list of the 10 best former Michigan football and basketball players who have become broadcasters. (Note: If we were to include ALL former U-M athletes who became broadcasters, the list would begin and end with former track star Bob Ufer. This list is confined to former football and basketball players only.)
So, let’s have a look at the list!
1. Dan Dierdorf
He’s found a nice little retirement gig as the color man for Michigan’s football broadcasts on radio now, but back in the day, he was one of the greatest NFL analysts ever. He was (and still is) smart, funny, insightful and smooth. After a career as one of the greatest college and NFL offensive tackles ever, he moved into the broadcast booth in 1984. He spent most of his long career doing Monday Night Football on ABC, and then as Verne Lundquist’s partner on CBS. A legend as a player, a legend as a broadcaster.
2. Jalen Rose
Two members of the Fab Five make the list, and the way he’s going, Jalen might even top Dierdorf as the greatest Michigan broadcaster ever. After his memorable U-M career, he spent 13 years in the NBA before moving on to ABC and ESPN, where he’s become one of their very best on-air personalities.
3. Tom Harmon
I’m way too young to have seen him play, but I’m not too young to have seen him on the air, and as a broadcaster, Tom Harmon was always as cool as the other side of the pillow. After his incredible football career and World War II heroics, Harmon began his career as a broadcaster in 1947, becoming one of the first athletes to successfully make the transition to the broadcast booth. He did play-by-play for the first-ever TV broadcast of a Rose Bowl game in 1948, and eventually moved on to ABC, where he had a long career doing play-by-play for UCLA games and a whole bunch of other stuff.
4. Desmond Howard
How cool is it to turn on ESPN’s Game Day every Saturday and see No. 21 giving it to Kirk Herbstreit? Howard is always bright, funny, insightful and loyal to his alma mater. Hard to imagine Saturday mornings in the fall without him.
5. Brian Griese
Two members of the 1997 National Championship team make the list, led by Griese – like his dad, a no-nonsense, intelligent college football color man. After his career at Michigan and in the NFL (where he made the Pro Bowl in 2000), Griese joined ESPN in 2009 and has been a Saturday stalwart there ever since.
6. Charles Woodson
The man could play some football. And the man can talk some football, too. Brian Griese’s 1997 teammate was one of the greatest college and NFL defensive backs ever, and when he retired in 2015, he joined ESPN as an NFL studio analyst, where he was always honest and insightful. He left the network in 2019 and made the move to Fox, where he now does college football studio analysis.
7. Chris Webber
The second Fab Fiver on our list, Webber has always been telegenic, media-savvy and smooth from the time he first stepped in front of the microphone in middle school. There was never any doubt he was eventually going to end up in broadcasting, and that’s exactly what happened. C-Webb has been an NBA analyst for TNT and the NBA Network, along with a host of other podcasts, movie projects and more.
8. Jay Feely
The only kicker on our list, Feely booted 332 field goals in his NFL career, after making 17 of them during his senior year at Michigan. He moved in front of a microphone in 2015, when he joined CBS Sports, doing both college and NFL games.
9. Bob Thornbladh
A fullback for Bo Schembechler in the early 1970s, Thornbladh (pronounced THORN-blade) had a short NFL career before returning to U-M as an assistant coach for Bo. In the 1980s, he moved to the broadcast booth, doing color commentary on WJR’s U-M broadcasts, teaming up with play-by-play man Frank Beckmann.
10. Jim Brandstatter
To be clear, Brandstatter makes the list for his work as a color man with the Lions and U-M, and NOT for his current gig doing play-by-play for Michigan games. While he’s painful as a play-by-play man, he was great doing color. He was also fantastic as a local sports guy doing the regular TV and radio broadcasts.