49 Days: A Look Back At All-American Bob Chappuis

With 49 days until Michigan returns, we look back at Bob Chappuis. The Toledo, Ohio native was an impressive player throughout his playing career and also served our country in World War II. Below are his highlights and achievements:

College

  • When it came time to choose a college, his father said his only preference for his son was that he not attend Ohio State. Chappuis could not provide much of an explanation for his father’s preference: “Dad just didn’t like Ohio State.”
  • Chappuis played in nine games as a sophomore in 1942, contributing 220 yards rushing, 358 yards passing, and 30 yards receiving.
  • In his first game as a college halfback, Chappuis completed seven of eighteen passes for a gain of 80 yards, and also rushed for 49 yards in a 9–0 win over the Great Lakes Naval Training Station.
  • Chappuis’ predecessor as Michigan’s halfback, Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon, completed seven passes in a single game only three times in three years, a feat accomplished by Chappuis in his first game.

Service in World War II

  • Chappuis’ college program was interrupted by military service from 1943 to 1945. During World War II, Chappuis earned the rank of Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Forces.
  • He flew 21 missions as a radio operator and aerial gunner in B-25 bombers.
  • His crew sunk a cruiser in an Italian harbor, which earned it a citation in September 1944.
  • His aircraft was shot down in February 1945 in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy. Chappuis parachuted from the plane before it crashed, and Italian partisans rescued him by hiding Chappuis and two other crew members for the final three months of the war.

Back to Ann Arbor

  • After the war, Chappuis returned to Michigan where he broke the Big Nine Conference record for total offense in 1946 and then broke his own record in 1947.
  • He led the 1947 Michigan team known as the “Mad Magicians” to an undefeated season and a 49–0 win over the USC Trojans in the 1948 Rose Bowl game.
  • He was a unanimous All-American selection in 1947 and was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1948 Rose Bowl.
  • His picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1947 in connection with a feature article about Chappuis and the 1947 Wolverines.
  • He placed second in the 1947 Heisman Trophy balloting.
  • During his career he established many football records that lasted for over a generation and became an All-American. He continues to hold the Big Ten Conference single-season passer rating record and the Michigan Wolverines single-season yards/completion records.
  • He was one of the early passing specialists in an era where football players were just beginning to either play on offense or defense instead of both.

NFL

  • Chappuis was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and reports in February 1948 indicated that the Steelers had offered him a two-year contract for $20,000 per year.
  • However, Chappuis passed up the Steelers’ offer, opting instead to play for the new All-America Football Conference (AAFC).
  • In June 1948, Chappuis signed with Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers of the AAFC after coach Carl Voyles outbid the Steelers for his services at $17,000.
  • He had been drafted by the Cleveland Browns, and the Dodgers gave the Browns three draft picks in exchange for the right to sign Chappuis.
  • He played professional football in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) as a quarterback for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Hornets in 1948 and 1949.
  • He led the Dodgers in total offense in 1948 with 1,402 yards passing and 310 yards rushing.
  • When both clubs and the AAFC folded, Chappuis retired from football in 1950.
  • He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1988.

Life After Football

  • After retiring from football, Chappuis worked in various business ventures. In the 1950s, he was in the electrical appliance business in South Bend, Indiana.
  • He spent thirteen years with Central Soya Co. in Fort Wayne, Indiana, retiring in 1983 as the Vice President in charge of Labor Relations.
  • He formed his own management consulting business in Fort Wayne.
  • Chappuis and his wife, Ann Chappuis, had four children.
  • In 2012, he was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
  • He fell in June 2012 and was hospitalized at the University of Michigan Hospital.
  • He died a few days later on June 14, 2012.

He was a true champion when he represented Michigan and our country

Go Blue!

David Noe