The Gophers will have three special guests in their locker room, listening to Tracy Claeys address the players, before taking the field Saturday against Colorado State.
Two members of their 1941 national championship team — Warren Plunkett and George Michael Welch — will be on hand, along with Scott Smith, son of that year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Bruce Smith.
The Gophers plan to honor their 1941 team on the field during the first quarter, celebrating the 75th anniversary of that 8-0 season.
“A lot of these guys went off to war,” said M Club director George Adzick. “You want to talk about the quintessential greatest generation. They’re as good as it gets. These guys look like champions, act like champions and talk like champions.”
Minnesota also went 8-0 to win the 1940 national title, so there were enormous expectations for the ’41 team and coach Bernie Bierman. The Gophers clawed out wins against Washington (14-6), Michigan (7-0), Northwestern (8-7) and Nebraska (9-0) before dominating Iowa (34-13) and Wisconsin (41-6).
Smith, who had a prolific 1940 season, captained the ’41 team and overcame a severe knee injury to deliver several clutch performances at halfback. The Faribault native, who died of cancer in 1967, remains the only Heisman winner in Gophers history.
“I’m such a huge football fan; I would have loved to see these guys play live,” said Scott Smith, who was 10 when his father died. “They ran the single-wing, and when I watch the film, I have trouble seeing where the ball is half the time. My dad was so proud of his teammates.”
Bruce Smith and tackle Dick Wildung were the team’s two All-Americas. The other first-team All-Big Ten members were halfback Bill Daley, end Bob Fitch and guard Len Levy.
Plunkett, now 96, played quarterback. Welch, 95, played fullback.
“For us to have the opportunity to honor them, as they stand on the field, you cannot find better moments in all of college sports,” Adzick said.