Although Jim Brandstatter didn’t stray, in miles, too far from home, symbolically he left to the other end of the earth by going from East Lansing to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Don’t forget that Jim’s father was an All-American for the Spartans and was a member of their faculty as Jim was progressing through his developmental stages. And, older brother Art Jr. played for Duffy Daugherty; and Jim got to know many of Art’s Spartan teammates during those illustrious and football dominating seasons.
Yes, Jim left home and headed south- east to Ann Arbor. In spite of being a terrific athlete in football, basketball and baseball in high school, Jim had to work hard and prove to himself and coaches that he belonged, and could contribute to the team. He got into Bo’s doghouse early because he weighed over the magic number of 250 pounds. Bo put a lot of pressure on this young man over and over again. Bo even unfairly accused his offensive lineman of missing a block that resulted in a blocked punt. Despite coach Schembechler’s mistake, as pointed out by one of his position coaches, Schembechler was unable to admit his mistake. To make matters worse, Schembechler rationalized and sarcastically added “He needed it anyway.”” It” pertained to a tongue lashing by this excitable coach.
Many players left the team, and many had a hard time with Schembechler’s abrupt, harsh, aggressive language. Jim’s father had a military and law enforcement background; Jim’s mother dealt with four older brothers and didn’t put up with nonsense; Jim attended a parochial elementary school and had his ear lobes tugged during the process. So by the time he got to Bo, Jim knew how to survive and could take the verbal tongue lashings.
In 1969, Jim played behind, All-American, future Hall of Fame tackle Dan Dierdorf. Jim simply put in the time and effort, worked hard and practiced, practiced, practiced to become a more efficient football player. It took the game against the University of Arizona for Jim to feel more secure about his ability to play on the gridiron. With the game on the line, Jim came in and replaced injured Jack Harpring, made a key block, enabling Billy Taylor to score the winning touchdown. The bone crushing block against the Wildcat’s cornerback felt terrific. Not only that, Jim knew and the coaches knew they could count on Jim regardless of game circumstances.
Another significant event in Jim’s life, was to change his Architectural Design major. Both Jim and roommate and teammate Mike Keller, enrolled in a speech class and the rest became history. One speech, radio, TV broadcasting class, etc. led to other unique experiences. After receiving Big Ten honors for his football exploits, Jim, followed another passion-broadcasting.
From a local Michigan TV station, WEYI, Jim worked his way up to larger stations. In fact, he is the voice of the Michigan Wolverines and the Detroit Lions. Not only that, he has a coaches radio show, during the football season. In fact, coach Schembechler must have enjoyed hassling his former player, who was now the interviewer. During one radio show interview Bo said sarcastically “I thought that you knew more about the game of football, Jim, I still have the right to hire and fire.” I didn’t ask Jim about his reply to his coach at the time, but I will later. Further, and interesting is that, Jim’s former teammate Dan Dierdorf joined him in 2014, in the radio booth for Michigan football.
Make sure you catch this Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and Michigan Sportscaster of the year character this fall. And do not forget to listen to his radio talk show with Jim Harbaugh. In the 1980s, Jim described quarterback Harbaugh’s exploits on the field and will have an opportunity to do it again.
Go Blue Go!