College Football: Michigan and Northwestern Establish George Jewett Trophy

ANN ARBOR and EVANSTON, Ill. – The University of Michigan and Northwestern University have established the first rivalry game trophy named for an African American player in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history, creating the George Jewett Trophy, announced jointly by the two institutions today (Thursday, Feb. 25).

Jewett was the first African American to play football at each institution and was the first Black player in the history of the Big Ten Conference. The George Jewett Trophy will be played for each time the two programs meet on the football field.

Jewett played for Michigan during the 1890 and 1892 seasons, enrolling at the university after being named valedictorian at Ann Arbor High (now Ann Arbor Pioneer), where he was a standout in track, football and baseball. Jewett starred on the gridiron for the Wolverines as a fullback and halfback and was the team’s main kicker, all while studying medicine.

He left Michigan for Northwestern in 1893 to finish his medical degree. While in Evanston, he also lettered and starred in football for the Wildcats for two seasons.

After graduation, Jewett became a doctor in Chicago before returning to Ann Arbor in 1899. He coached briefly at Michigan Agricultural College and Olivet, and later started a dry cleaning and pressing business on State Street. Unfortunately, Jewett’s life was cut short, as he died in 1908 at the age of 38, leaving behind a wife and two sons.

“This is a historic moment in major college football history,” said Warde Manuel, U-M’s Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. “We are proud to partner with our peer institution, Northwestern, to recognize and honor an African American pioneer in George Jewett. George achieved at a high level as an athlete and doctor. His hard work and effort led to success not only for himself, but for those who would follow a similar path after him. His excellence at two Big Ten institutions as a student, athlete and citizen is something we want our current student-athletes to aspire to during their collegiate experience. The George Jewett Trophy will become a proud celebration of the importance to diversity on our teams, campuses, and in our society.”

“This is a deserved and exciting acknowledgement of Dr. George Jewett, a landmark figure for both Northwestern and Michigan,” said Janna Blais, NU’s interim Combe Family Vice President for Athletics & Recreation. “Beginning this fall, each time Wildcats and Wolverines student-athletes meet on the football field, it will be in celebration of a true pioneer. Every future meeting will stand as an opportunity to educate, communicate and inspire our communities in Dr. Jewett’s memory. Those dates also will offer a chance to take stock of the critical work taking place to create cultures defined by justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and excellence on our campuses and beyond.”

The Wolverines have two additional Big Ten rivalry games for which a trophy is annually on the line: the battle for the Little Brown Jug with Minnesota and the in-state rivalry with Michigan State for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Northwestern annually plays for The Land of Lincoln Trophy against Illinois.

The George Jewett Trophy will become the 16th rivalry game trophy in the Big Ten.

The first meeting between Michigan and Northwestern when the George Jewett Trophy will be presented is Oct. 23, 2021, in Ann Arbor.

Kevin Warren, Big Ten Commissioner

“Dr. George Jewett’s academic, athletic, community and cultural accolades transcend time,” stated Big Ten Commissioner, Kevin Warren. “We are proud that the University of Michigan and Northwestern University will honor Dr. Jewett’s extraordinary humanity, courage, intelligence, success and legacy with the first rivalry game trophy featuring an African American football player in FBS and Big Ten history. Dr. Jewett’s dedication and perseverance to achieve excellence in every area of his life are an inspiration to every man and woman and provide evidence that with hard work and passion there are no limitations to achieving your dreams. We must continue to work together to honor Dr. Jewett by eliminating racism and hate and creating equality in our society.”

Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library: Celebrating George Jewett

Background on Football Games Named for African-Americans

From the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame

  • There are over a dozen “classics” that are or were named after African Americans in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and specifically the historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU).
  • The Eddie Robinson Classic was a kickoff game but not a rivalry game.
  • Prairie View and Texas Southern play each season for the Durley-Nicks Trophy. Alexander Durley and Billy Nicks were former African American coaches at the two schools. Their annual Labor Day game will be played this year on March 6.
  • Until last season, Allen and Edward Waters played in the Ralph Bunch Hornets Classic; the recent EW schedule lists the game now as the AME Classic.