Michigan, Northwestern establish rivalry trophy to honor first Black FBS player

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Michigan and Northwestern jointly announced Thursday the schools have established the George Jewett Trophy.

Who is George Jewett, you ask? Great question, and more importantly an appropriate question.

Jewett, according to the schools, is the first Black player in FBS history -- a player who happened to play at Michigan and Northwestern. From Michigan's announcement:

Jewett played for Michigan during the 1890 and 1892 seasons, enrolling at the university after being named valedictorian at Ann Arbor High (now Ann Arbor Pioneer), where he was a standout in track, football and baseball. Jewett starred on the gridiron for the Wolverines as a fullback and halfback and was the team's main kicker, all while studying medicine.

He left Michigan for Northwestern in 1893 to finish his medical degree. While in Evanston, he also lettered and starred in football for the Wildcats for two seasons.

After graduation, Jewett became a doctor in Chicago before returning to Ann Arbor in 1899. He coached briefly at Michigan Agricultural College and Olivet, and later started a dry cleaning and pressing business on State Street. Unfortunately, Jewett's life was cut short, as he died in 1908 at the age of 38, leaving behind a wife and two sons.

I, a professional college football fanatic, had never heard of Jewett, and chances are you hadn't either, which is all the more reason for the schools to establish a trophy honoring his memory.

"This is a historic moment in major college football history," said Michigan AD Warde Manuel . "We are proud to partner with our peer institution, Northwestern, to recognize and honor an African American pioneer in George Jewett. George achieved at a high level as an athlete and doctor. His hard work and effort led to success not only for himself, but for those who would follow a similar path after him. His excellence at two Big Ten institutions as a student, athlete and citizen is something we want our current student-athletes to aspire to during their collegiate experience. The George Jewett Trophy will become a proud celebration of the importance to diversity on our teams, campuses, and in our society."

The first George Jewett Trophy will be awarded Oct. 23 in Ann Arbor.

"This is a deserved and exciting acknowledgement of Dr. George Jewett, a landmark figure for both Northwestern and Michigan," Northwestern interim AD Janna Blais said. "Beginning this fall, each time Wildcats and Wolverines student-athletes meet on the football field, it will be in celebration of a true pioneer. Every future meeting will stand as an opportunity to educate, communicate and inspire our communities in Dr. Jewett's memory. Those dates also will offer a chance to take stock of the critical work taking place to create cultures defined by justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and excellence on our campuses and beyond."

Michigan and Northwestern are not rivals in a true sense. The Wolverines own a 58-15-2 advantage; Northwestern has won just five times since 1960. However, the Wildcats' 54-51 upset of Michigan in 2000 is regarded as perhaps the most influential game in the spread offense's takeover of football. Incidentally, Jewett played for both sides and lost both: he played for Michigan in their 1892 loss to Northwestern, then for the Wildcats in their 1893 loss to the Wolverines.

Not being rivals does not stop Big Ten teams from establishing rivalry trophies. In fact, the Jewett Trophy will be the league's 16th trophy game.