The 1940 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1940 college football season. Under third-year head coach Fritz Crisler, Michigan compiled a 7–1 record and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the final AP Poll. The team outscored opponents 196 to 34. The team's sole setback was a 7–6 loss on the road against a Minnesota team that finished the season No. 1 in the final AP poll.
The 1940 team featured one of the greatest backfield in football history with all four principal starters going on to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as either a player or coach. Left halfback Tom Harmon was a consensus All-American and the winner of the Heisman Trophy as the best overall player in college football. Harmon became the focus of nationwide media coverage, even appearing on the cover of Life magazine in November 1940. Quarterback Forest Evashevski won the Big Ten Medal as the school's best senior student-athlete and was later referred to by Coach Crisler as "the greatest quarterback I ever had." Fullback Bob Westfall, known as "Bullet Bob," was the country's fourth leading rusher in 1940, gaining 808 yards in eight games. (Harmon had 852 rushing yards.) Westfall went on to become a consensus All-American in 1941 and also won All-Pro honors for the Detroit Lions in 1945. David M. Nelson, who started the most games at right halfback, went on to a 20-year career as a college football coach and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a coach.
A fifth starter on the 1940 line, Milo Sukup, was the running guard and one of the principal blockers for Harmon and Westfall. Harmon in 1940 publicly praised Sukup and Fritz as "two big reasons for Harmon." Sukup was reportedly on track for selection as an All-American until he suffered a career-ending injury late in the season. In a November 1940 game against Illinois, Sukup suffered a blow to the head while blocking for Harmon. He was knocked unconscious, suffered from temporary amnesia and was later hospitalized for several days after suffering recurring headaches. Sukup was propped up in a bed at University Hospital when the Wolverines left to play Minnesota and listened by radio from his hospital bed as the team suffered its only loss of the season. Sukup missed the last three games of the season due to the concussion and did not compete further as a football player. Robert Kolesar, who replaced Sukup at right guard for the last two games, went on to play for the Cleveland Browns.
Michigan opened the 1940 season on the road playing the California Golden Bears at Berkeley, California. Michigan won the game, 41-0, as the Michigan defense did not allow California to advance past midfield during the game. The big story of the game, however, was Tom Harmon. While celebrating his 21st birthday, Harmon scored four touchdowns, kicked four points after touchdown (PAT), and threw a touchdown pass to David M. Nelson. Harmon's first touchdown came on the opening kickoff, which he returned 94 yards. His second touchdown came in the second quarter on a 72-yard punt return in which he reportedly dodged and swerved from one side of the field to the other, running about 100 yards before reaching the end zone. His third touchdown was on an 85-yard run in the second quarter. During the third touchdown run, a spectator jumped from the stands and ran onto the field trying to tackle Harmon. Even the twelfth man, who was escorted off the field by police, could not stop Harmon from reaching the endzone. The Associated Press wrote that Harmon found California's defense "about as strong as a wet paper bag," noted that Harmon was "as hard to snare as a greased pig," and opined that the only reason Michigan's point total was not higher was that "Michigan's first-string players ran themselves into a complete state of exhaustion."
Michigan's starting lineup against California was Frutig (left end), Wistert (left tackle), Fritz (left guard), Ingalls (center), Sukup (right guard), Kelto (right tackle), Rogers (right end), Evashevski (quarterback), Harmon (left halfback), Call (right halfback), and Westfall (fullback).
In the final game of the 1940 season, Michigan defeated Ohio State 40-0 in Columbus. In his final game for Michigan, Tom Harmon ran for three touchdowns, threw two touchdown passes (one to Forest Evashevski and the other to Ed Frutig, and converted four PATs. He also averaged 50 yards per punt on three punts. Harmon closed out his career with a total of 237 points in 24 games, on 33 touchdowns, 33 extra points, and two field goals. When Harmon left the field with 38 seconds remaining, the crowd game him a standing ovation. Paul Kromer also returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Michigan had 447 yards of total offense in the game, 299 rushing and 148 passing.
Michigan's starting lineup against California was Frutig (left end), Wistert (left tackle), Fritz (left guard), Ingalls (center), Kolesar (right guard), Kelto (right tackle), Rogers (right end), Evashevski (quarterback), Harmon (left halfback), Call (right halfback), and Westfall (fullback).
^"Sukup In Hospital". The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin). November 6, 1940.
^"Mates Tell Sukup Wolves Will Win By 2 Touchdowns". The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, Michigan. November 8, 1940.
^"Harmon May Fall Short of Grange's Mark". The News-Palladium, Benton Harbor, Michigan. November 12, 1940.("Meanwhile, Dr. George Hammond, team physician, reported that Milo Sukup, who heard the Minnesota game by radio from his hospital cot, would probably be unable to face the Wildcats. Sukup, who has suffered recurrent headaches from an injury in the Illinois game, left the hospital Sunday but yesterday was ordered back to confinement.")
^Norman D. Call. Graduated from Norwalk High School in 1938. Served as an ensign in the Coast Guard after attending Michigan. He died in 1944 while helping rescue a navy destroyer that had been torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of North Carolina. He was inducted into the Norwalk Hall of Fame in 2003.
^Czak graduated from Elyria High School in 1937. He died in 2008. He was inducted into the Elyria Sports Hall of Fame.
^Robert L. Flora, born in Muskegon, Michigan, November 23, 1915. Served in WWII from 1942 to 1945. He coached football at Washington State and the University of Iowa and waa assistant athletic director at Iowa under Forrest Evashevski. He later served as an assistant coach at Michigan State under Biggy Munn. He last worked as athletic facilities director at the University of Michigan. He died in an automobile accident on December 4, 2007, near St. Ignace, Michigan.
^Hugo E. "Whitey" Fraumann, born March 3, 1919, in Vincennes, Indiana. Served as a Lt. commander in U.S. Navy during WWII. Owner and publisher of Specialty Books in Ann Arbor for over 30 years. Died December 2, 2006, at his home in Clinton, Michigan.
^Kohl was from Dayton, Ohio. He was known as one of the smallest backs in major collegiate football, weighing 142 pounds.
^Krejsa was a blocking back who played college football for Western Reserve, then Michigan, then North Carolina, then back to Western Reserve. He served four years as a B-17 bombardier during World War II. In June 1947, he was signed to play with the New York Yankees Football Club. He was released by the Yankees at the end of August 1947.
^Harold Lockard, February 7, 1920, died February 1971, SSN issued Ohio
^William "Bill" Melzow, born December 6, 1919, died September 30 , 2001, buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Genesee County, Michigan.
^Michael Megregian, born June 10, 1918. He was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Association Coaches Hall of Fame in 1991. He coached for 18 years, including 13 years at Fordson High School with a record of 102-38-5. He retired from Fordson in 1964. He died on March 28, 1996. Last known residence at Eastport, Antrim County, Michigan.
^Rudolph Jacob Sengel, born May 12, 1921. Died June 14, 2009. He was a resident of Gilbert, Arizona.
^Philip E. Sharpe, born July 17, 1921, died September 1, 2005, SSN issued Ohio, last address Seattle, Washington
^Marshall C. "Marsh" Strenger, born c. 1918. He served as a B-25 bomber pilot in WWII and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. He later served two terms as an alderman in Lake Forest, Illinois, and as mayor from 1987 to 1990. He also operated H.T. Strenger Inc., a plumbing business founded by his father. He died in December 1994 at age 76 at Lake Forest Hospital.