Michigan, Northwestern to compete for football trophy in honor of George Jewett

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

George Jewett, the first African-American to play football in the Big Ten who played at both Michigan and Northwestern, is the namesake for a trophy Michigan and Northwestern will play for each season.

Both schools announced the trophy, the 16th in Big Ten football, Thursday morning. It will be awarded for the first time when the teams play Oct. 23 at Michigan Stadium.

"This is a historic moment in major college football history," Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement Thursday. "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."

Jewett, valedictorian at Ann Arbor High (now Pioneer), played for Michigan during the 1890 and 1892 seasons, and played fullback and halfback and was the kicker. He studied medicine at Michigan but then moved on in 1893 to Northwestern, where he became the first Black player and finished his medical degree.

After graduating, Jewett practiced medicine in Chicago before returning to Ann Arbor in 1899. He coached briefly at Michigan Agricultural College and Olivet, and later started a dry cleaning business on State Street. Jewett died at age 38 in 1908.

"Dr. George Jewett's academic, athletic, community and cultural accolades transcend time," Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. "We are proud that the University of Michigan and Northwestern University will honor Dr. Jewett's extraordinary humanity, courage, intelligence, success and legacy with the first rivalry game trophy featuring an African American football player in FBS and Big Ten history.”

Michigan plays for the Paul Bunyan Trophy against Michigan State and the Little Brown Jug with Minnesota. Northwestern annually plays for The Land of Lincoln Trophy against Illinois.