The Best Michigan Football Players of All Time

Over 4.9K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Michigan Football Players of All Time
Voting Rules
Rank the players based only on their time at Michigan

A list of the best Michigan Wolverines football players of all time. When many people think of college football, the University of Michigan is one of the first schools that they associate with the game. Michigan currently has the most wins in college football history and many of college football's greats have worn the maize and blue. Michigan has won or shared 42 league titles; only Oklahoma and Nebraska have more conference championships in college football. Since the inception of the AP Poll in 1936, Michigan has finished in the top 10 a record 37 times. The Wolverines claim 11 national championships, most recently that of the 1997 squad voted atop the final AP Poll.

With championships comes great players. Some of the best Michigan players ever have led the school to not only titles, but to the Rose Bowl. The New Year's Day game is a Michigan staple and the Wolverines have played in Pasadena 20 times. Some of Michigan's best players cemented their legacy as famous Michigan football players with strong Rose Bowl performances.

Michigan has a rich history of having outstanding players on its rosters. Who wouldn't want to play for the winningest team in college history? That's what attracted Heisman Trophy winners like Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson to the school. Even a former President of the United States played for the Wolverines. Yes, Gerald Ford was a standout footballer before he entered the White House. 

This is a list of the best Michigan Wolverines football players of all time. If you see someone missing from this list, feel free to add him. Vote or rerank this list of the greatest Michigan Wolverines of all time by who you think should be at the top. 
Most divisive: John Navarre
Ranked by
  • Charles Woodson
    Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety
    2,598 votes
    • Birthplace: Fremont, USA, Ohio
    • Age: 46
    • Teams: Michigan Wolverines football, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers

    Charles Woodson, a versatile defensive back and a true testament to longevity in the sport, became one of Michigan State's most dominant athletes with his exceptional coverage skills and ability to read quarterbacks like no other. His game-changing interceptions and uncanny playmaking instincts not only provided spectacular highlights but also reinforced his role as the leader of the Wolverines' defense throughout his college career. Ultimately, Woodson's legacy as a tenacious competitor on the field continues to influence future generations, proving his status as one of the best Michigan football players of all time.

  • Desmond Howard
    Return specialist, Punt returner, Kickoff returner
    2,120 votes
    • Birthplace: USA, Cleveland, Ohio
    • Age: 53
    • Teams: Michigan Wolverines football, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers

    Desmond Howard's electrifying playing style and unmatched agility on the field made him a standout receiver and return specialist for Michigan State, etching his name into the Wolverines' history books. With his incredible hands and acceleration that left defenders in the dust, Howard was an offensive weapon that struck fear into the hearts of opponents. As he continued to rack up jaw-dropping plays, his impact on the sport grew, leaving a legacy of greatness in the wake of an illustrious college career.

  • Jake Long
    1,421 votes
    • Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan
    • Age: 38
    • Teams: Michigan Wolverines football, St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins

    A towering presence on the offensive line, Jake Long's immense size and power made him indispensable as a blind side protector during his time at Michigan State. Equipped with a tenacious work ethic and unwavering determination, Long was a stalwart in the trenches, consistently opening running lanes for his backs and giving quarterbacks ample time to make plays downfield. His impact on the Wolverines' offense was undeniable, solidifying his place among Michigan's all-time elite.

  • Ty Law
    Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back
    1,594 votes
    • Birthplace: USA, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania
    • Age: 49
    • Teams: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs

    Ty Law brought a unique blend of speed, strength, and intelligence to Michigan State's secondary, making him a nightmare for opposing receivers. As a lockdown corner, Law never shied away from the challenge of covering the opponent's best pass-catcher, often rendering them a non-factor in the game. His contributions to the Wolverines' defense will forever be remembered as he left an indelible mark on the sport with his elite-level play.

  • Tom Brady
    3,079 votes
    • Birthplace: San Mateo, California
    • Age: 46
    • Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots

    Michigan State alum, Tom Brady, demonstrated unparalleled consistency and a winning mentality that transcended the college game and would eventually catapult him into NFL legend status. His mastery of the quarterback position allowed him to dissect defenses with surgical precision, while his razor-sharp accuracy and unwavering poise made him a force to be reckoned with. Brady's legacy at Michigan State is only the first chapter in his storied football career, a testament to his remarkable talent and dedication.

  • Jabrill Peppers
    1,570 votes
    • Birthplace: East Orange, New Jersey
    • Teams: New England Patriots

    The multi-talented Jabrill Peppers showcased his dynamic skillset as a defensive back, linebacker, and return specialist for the Michigan Wolverines, making him a game-changer on both sides of the ball. His explosive athleticism and instinctual playmaking abilities allowed him to excel in various positions, leaving opponents scratching their heads as they tried to counter his versatility. Peppers' unique contributions to the Wolverines' success secured his spot among the best Michigan football players of all time.