Every now and then it comes to pass that a player actually fits a universally applied label really well.
Such was the case with late Denver Broncos running back Rob Lytle, who was a "Michigan Man" in all the right ways.
Rob passed away in 2010 of a heart attack at the age of 56, and I wrote an obituary then called "Remembering Rob Lytle," and I recommend it for fans who know little of him. I will say, it is a shame if a Broncos fan does not know about Lytle, who was an integral part of our first AFC Championship team in 1977.
Former Michigan quarterback Rick Leach, himself a Broncos draftee who went on to a fine career in major league baseball instead, said of Lytle, "He was a great competitor and such a great leader. In my opinion, Rob was what a 'Michigan man' is all about. He cared about the team, he cared about Big Ten titles and he would do anything to make the team better."
Take a look back at the Broncos' draft history when it comes to running backs, including Terrell Davis and Floyd Little.
Indeed, he claimed the Wolverines' John F. Maulbetsch Award for desire, character and leadership on and off the field.
I was fortunate to be Rob's public relations man for all but the first season of his NFL career, and he never turned me down for an interview or turned his back on a kid looking for an autograph.
Rob always did what was asked of him, and then he did more. He did what was needed by the team, on or off the field, then he did more.
He had plenty of injuries as a Bronco, which truly shortened his career, but he never complained and just kept grinding until his body could go no longer.
In one of the rare moments when he talked about himself to me—men like Rob Lytle do not talk about themselves much; they keep to themselves and play—he acknowledged privately at the end of his career that, "The one regret I have is that the fans never really saw me run like I could before the injuries."
But he ran plenty hard.
Lytle posted 3,317 rushing yards at Michigan and scored 26 touchdowns during his three varsity seasons. He finished his college career as the Wolverines' all-time rushing leader and had 15 100-yard games. Then he went on to play seven seasons for the Broncos, rushing and receiving for over 2,000 yards and scoring 14 times.
This past Tuesday, Dec. 7, Rob Lytle was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, with National Football Foundation Chairman Archie Manning doing the honors at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
I was proud to be in attendance for the award. It was great to see his wife, Tracy, and their son and daughter at the ceremony, beaming with pride at their father being honored with induction.
He was first nominated in 2003 and had been on the ballot each year since 2006.
There are a lot of great schools, each with their own legitimate institutions.
For me on Tuesday night, it was great to see this true Michigan Man get his due.