Pontius cropped from 1912 Michigan football team photograph
April 17, 1891|
|Died||November 5, 1960
New York City, New York
|Alma mater||University of Michigan|
|Position(s)||End, tackle (football)
First baseman (baseball)
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|Accomplishments and honors|
Miller Hall Pontius (April 17, 1891 – November 5, 1960) was an All-American football tackle and end for the Michigan Wolverines from 1911 to 1913. He also played baseball with coach Branch Rickey and pitcher George Sisler while a student at the University of Michigan. He later served as an assistant football coach at Michigan and the University of Tennessee. In later years, Pontius was an investment banker with a prominent Wall Street firm.
All-American at Michigan
Years later, Pontius was remembered as a "slashing tackle." Asked whether underclassmen should be permitted to play, he noted: "A boy must go through the mill of at least one varsity campaign to pick up all the subtle little moves and latent tricks that are a part of big league line play. During my days in Ann Arbor we did not play sophomores on the line if we could help it...Personally I usually could out-maneuver a huge sophomore even if he outweighed me by 50 pounds. There are all sorts of dodges and stunts that hoodwink a recruit tackle or guard."
Pontius was stricken by typhoid fever during the summer of 1912. After a period of convalescing at his home in Ohio, Pontius was sent "west to the mountains for his health." When he arrived in Ann Arbor in September, he was "not in condition to stand the grueling work of a football season." After a promising start by Pontius in 1911, his loss reportedly cost Coach Yost “much worry and sleep.”
Despite the illness, Pontius managed to get into shape and played several games in 1912. In November 1912, Yost announced that he was moving Pontius from right end to right tackle. One reporter noted that Pontius was "a medium end," but "a crackerjack tackle." Pontius played well enough in 1912 to receive All-Western honors as an end.
Before the 1913 season, Pontius was expected to be a star, and news accounts noted that the 185-pound Pontius had played well at both end and tackle in 1911 and 1912.
In 1913, Pontius was selected as an All-American, as the Wolverines went 6–1 and outscored their opponents 175–21. The only loss was to Michigan Agricultural College (later known as Michigan State), 12–7. They beat Vanderbilt, 33–2, Syracuse, 43–7, Cornell, 17–0, and Penn, 13–0.
After the first five games, the press wrote that Pontius "has given a good account for himself in the games thus far this year." Pontius played his last game as a Wolverine on November 15, 1913, against Pennsylvania. Collier's Weekly wrote the following of his performance in that game: "He was aggressive against Pennsylvania, playing both end and tackle. He showed a thorough knowledge of the game and always crashed into the point of rival attacks."
In December 1913, Pontius was the only Michigan player selected as an All-American. He was chosen at tackle, listed at 6 feet, 1 inch, and weighing 189 pounds.
Baseball with Branch Rickey and George Sisler
Pontius was also a standout baseball player at Michigan, where he played for coach Branch Rickey and alongside pitcher George Sisler—both of whom were later inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1913, he was the first baseman for Rickey's best team at Michigan, a squad that went 21–4–1. It was the first U-M team to win 20 games. Sophomore Sisler was listed as a pitcher.
In June 1913, Pontius was elected captain of the Michigan baseball team for 1914. The Washington Post reported on his selection as captain: "Pontius, a senior law student, is first baseman and has played both baseball and football on Michigan teams for two years." In February 1914, Pontius was in his final year as a law student and decided not to play baseball. Sisler was chosen to succeed Pontius as the team's captain.
Football coach at Tennessee and Michigan
In June 1914, Pontius graduated from the law department at Michigan. He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he had a contract with the University of Tennessee athletic association as football coach. After two years as an assistant football coach with Zora G. Clevenger, the University announced in January 1916 that Pontius was not returning to Tennessee “because of private business interests.”
In September 1916, Yost announced that Pontius had been hired as an assistant coach for Michigan's varsity football team. In October 1916, the Syracuse Herald noted that “the line coaching of Miller Pontius has helped remarkably in bolstering up their department, and the back field can bank on much better protection.”
Pontius spent only one season as an assistant at Michigan and was involved in various business interests until his death in 1960. In August 1915, Pontius was connected with Paige Auto Co. of Detroit. In 1919, his hometown newspaper (the Circleville Herald) reported that Pontius had sailed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to enter business.
In 1922, Pontius was working with the foreign department of the Home Insurance Company. That same year, he married Mildred Carrington Taylor of Port Huron, Michigan, with whom he had a son David Pontius. They married after Pontius received sudden orders to sail for Central America. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, newspaper accounts indicate that Pontius was living in Evanston, Illinois.
By 1934, Pontius had moved to Bronxville, New York. He worked as an investment banker in New York City. In 1937, he was a vice president of G.L. Ohrstrom & Co., Inc., an investment banking, brokerage and real estate development firm founded by fellow University of Michigan alumnus, George L. Ohrstrom.
In 1938, Pontius was elected vice president of the Touchdown Club in New York City. Also, in 1938, Pontius was the "toastmaster" at a Michigan Alumni Club dinner in New York in honor of Michigan's new football coach Fritz Crisler. Pontius spoke of "the return of Michigan to its former high estate in the game."
Pontius later became a partner with the prominent Wall Street investment banking firm, F. Eberstadt and Co., where he worked until his death in 1960. Pontius died November 7, 1960 at Presbyterian Hospital in New York at age 69.
- "Ohio Grid Star Married in a Hurry". The Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, Ohio). 1922-11-08.
- "Graduates of 1908 Class Hold Reunion; 12 Attend". Circleville Herald. 1938-10-24.
- "University of Michigan Football All-American: Miller Pontius, Tackle". The Regents of the University of Michigan. 2007-02-10. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
- Harry Grayson (1936-11-30). "By Harry Grayson (columnist)". Ames Daily Tribune-Times.
- "Crack Player Does Not Display Form". The Evening Telegram (Elyria, Ohio). 1912-09-21.
- "Pontius Making Good at Tackle". The Fort Wayne News. 1912-11-02.
- "Calls Players to be Ready Sept. 15". The Waterloo Times-Tribune. 1913-08-23.
- "University of Michigan Athletics: 1913 Football Team". The Regents of the University of Michigan. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
- "Pontius One of Michigan’s Best". The Fort Wayne News. 1913-10-29.
- "All-American Football Eleven, On Which No College Is Given Place for More than One Man". Anaconda (Montana) Standard. 1913-12-21.
- Madej, Bruce (1997). "Michigan: Champions of the West, p. 34". Sport Publishing. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
- "Choose Pontius Captain: Senior Student at Michigan Will Lead 1914 Baseball Team". The Washington Post. 1913-06-26.
- "Michigan Selects Captain". The Indianapolis Star. 1914-02-25.
- "In Years Gone By: 15 Years Ago". Circleville Herald. 1928-03-09.
- "Looking Back in Pickaway County:25 Years Ago". Circleville Herald. 1939-06-19.
- "Shaughnessy Signs to Coach Tennessee". The Atlanta Constitution. 1916-01-16.
- "Big Staff Helps Hurry-Up Yost". Eau Claire Leader (Wisconsin). 1916-09-17.
- "Wolverines Out to Get Revenge on Orange Team: Michigan Line Is Strong While Backs Are Fast". Syracuse Herald. 1916-10-23.
- "Looking Back in Pickaway County: 25 Years Ago". Circleville Herald. 1940-08-24.
- "In Years Gone By: Ten Years Ago". Circleville Herald. 1929-05-01.
- "Personals". Circleville Herald. 1928-12-28.
- "Personals". Circleville Herald. 1929-05-02.
- "Looking Back in Pickaway County: Five Years Ago". Circleville Herald. 1938-05-30.
- "Cattaraugus". Oneonta Star. 1934-08-09.
- "Personals". Circleville Herald. 1939-01-11.
- "Outlook for Investments". New York Times. 1937-01-04.
- "History of G.L. Ohrstrom & Co.". G.L. Ohrstrom & Co. 1929-05-01. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
- "Touchdwon Club Trophy Awarded Posthumously to Le Roy N. Mills". New York Times. 1938-12-09.
- "Alumni Hear Crisler: Football Main topic at Dinner of Michigan Club Here". New York Times. 1938-12-10.
- "Former Wolverine Grid Star Dies at New York". Daily Globe (Ironwood, Michigan). 1960-11-07.
- "Oldtime Gridder Dies". The Bridgeport Telegram. 1960-11-08.