Wanglers proud to carry father’s UM legacy
John Wangler talks with pride about playing football in the late 1970s and early 1980s for Bo Schembechler.
A quarterback, Wangler was forever influenced by that experience and the gift of lifelong bonds created with teammates.
Some three decades later, he’s hoping it happens again — for his sons Jack, a redshirt junior receiver, and Jared a redshirt sophomore linebacker — playing at Michigan for Jim Harbaugh.
They take seriously wearing the family name on the backs of their uniforms, but Jared, in particular, often pokes fun at his father for having played in the “Stone Age.” Jack, meanwhile, has cracked he’s not sure face masks were part of the game back then.
So when their father mentions the ’70s and ’80s, there seems to be a difference of opinion on what century that means. He doesn’t take it personally. He just tries to get even.
“According to Jared, it might have been the 1800s because our university was founded in 1817,” John Wangler said, laughing. “But I did play in the 1900s. Jared’s sense of history is not the greatest, and he should probably brush up on that a little bit.”
Perhaps his sons, who along with their four siblings like to do something different each year for John on Father’s Day, might consider easing up on dad’s ancient playing days today — and mentioning his games were shot in black and white..
“We always try to spoil him because he does so much for us,” Jared said.
Destined for Diag
Jack and Jared Wangler are part of a second-generation group of Michigan players.
■Tyrone Wheatley Jr., a sophomore tight end, follows his father, former running back Tyrone Sr. — the running backs coach.
■Joe Hewlett, a junior running back, follows father Rich, a teammate of Wangler’s.
■The Dunaways — Jack, a sophomore linebacker, and Carter, a 2017 tight end commit — follow father Craig.
■Jon Runyan Jr., a sophomore offensive lineman, follows father Jon Sr., an All-American tackle.
For John Wangler, who grew up in Royal Oak, to see his sons wearing the winged helmet is an enormous source of pride. He hoped this would be their path, but never pushed them.
“I’m not going to lie — of course I did,” Wangler said of secretly wanting his kids to attend Michigan. “But wherever they went I would support them and make it work. I told them from Day 1, I did it my way and was fortunate to go to Michigan and play for Bo and graduate, and I want them to do it their way.
“It’s like winning the lottery ticket to have it all come together. ... They’re having a great time and they love playing for Jim (Harbaugh) and the coaches and being part of the program. They couldn’t be happier.”
Jack, though, is happy to be part of the next wave of Wanglers wearing the Michigan uniform.
“I’ve grown up always around Michigan,” he said. “I’ve seen great games in that stadium, and people have always told me about my dad when he played. My dad always stressed to go wherever you want to go, whatever is the best opportunity for you. He wanted what was best for us.”
And as legacies, the sons of former players have a different perspective playing for Michigan.
“I come here every day (in Schembechler Hall) and basically in the back of your mind think know how blessed I am,” Jared said. “You want to work a little bit harder to carry on the winning tradition and contribute to the team and help out Michigan in any way you can.
“It’s a unique perspective and some of the other guys whose fathers played here know it.”
They said it’s not a burden for the sons of former players to play for their father’s football program and wear the family name.
“Not at all,” Jack said. “It’s having the gratitude they played and now we’re carrying the torch. All of us have an understanding of that, but we don’t feel entitled. It doesn’t give us certain perks. We understand we have to respect what they did and appreciate when our dads played, they paved the way for us to come here.”
Wangler to AC
A businessman, John Wangler remains an active presence in all things Michigan football, from tailgating every home game with his parents, a tradition dating to his playing days, to being involved with the football alumni.
Mostly, he prides himself on raising six children with wife, Lorraine, and seeing his sons, who shared a room growing up, playing together on the same team. They also raised son Erik; and daughters Halle, who played basketball at Michigan and is a recent graduate; Sierra, a Michigan sophomore; and Jaleeza.
“I never wanted to cast too big a shadow,” said Wangler, who forever will be remembered for his winning touchdown pass to Anthony Carter against Indiana in 1979. “(Jack and Jared) are both great players in their own right and they’re finding their way. I hope they exceed everything I ever accomplished at Michigan, and if they don’t that’s fine too because I couldn’t be prouder of their work ethic. I told them, ‘If you don’t play a down or you’re a Heisman Trophy winner, if you have the respect of your teammate and coaches, that’s all that matters.’
“It’s very nice people remember you played and you threw a pass. But how are you as a person? That’s what Bo would always say. ... ‘Tell me about my program when my guys are 10 or 20 years out. What kind of people are they at that time, that’s what will tell me about my program.’ ”
As much as their father doesn’t like to dwell on the past, the sons want to look toward their futures.
“I’m thankful my father played here,” Jack said. “It lights a fire. After a while, you hear, ‘Oh, your dad had that pass against Indiana,’ and realize it’s my turn to do something worthwhile. What are you going to do? As much as you enjoy hearing stories about how good your dad was, you have that inner voice saying, ‘When are you going to do something to make a difference that people are going to remember?’ ”
And they certainly would be thrilled to see another generation of Wanglers following in their footsteps.
“Hopefully, 20 years from now we’ll have the same conversation about my kid playing for Michigan,” Jack said.