From the Varsity News archives: Memories of Lions, Titans football successes swirl near old stadium

And the walls came tumbling down.

Tumble they did this summer when the wrecker’s demolition ball razed U-D’s football stadium and took with it some of the grand memories of both Detroit and the school.

Fittingly enough for Detroit, the stadium went down to make room for a 900-car parking lot.

During the stadium’s 48 years, a lot happened on that hallowed ground. U-D’s two consensus All-America football players, Andy Farkas and Lloyd Brazil, along with a raft of sometimes All-Americas, ran over the turf. And there’s no telling how many other great football players from other schools played here.

During the birth of pro football and the great barnstorming teams of yesteryear, immortals, including Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski, visited the old stadium.

The greatest years of U-D stadium, built in 1923, were the early ones when the Titans were a national power. In 1928 U-D got her first immortal, Lloyd Brazil, an All-America on the undefeated Titans of 1928, possible winner of the mythical national title that year.

That was the fourth year for coach Gus Dorais, another football great. Dorais, in college, played with another famous coach and threw the first forward pass to that other coach, Knute Rockne.

After Brazil was graduated, U-D had another running back to gain All-America prestige. Andy Farkas, later member of an NFL championship team, led college football players in most points and most touchdowns in 1937.

That year was also the year of probably the greatest achievement for U-D football ever. A national election brought over five million votes, twice as many as the nearest competitor, for Dorais, winning for him the spot as head coach of the college all-stars in their annual charity game against the professional champion team.

Gus led them to their first win, a 6-0 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

The Titans reached national prominence again in the late 1950s with some good teams and great players. A number of Titans reached the pros, including many Catholic All-Americas, seemingly in great abundance until the end of varsity football in the mid-1960s.

The Varsity News was able to ascertain only one player still in the pros.

Grady Alderman, team captain and starting offensive lineman for the powerful Minnesota Vikings, was a product of U-D. Others once in the pros include Fred Beier, U-D’s last player to be mentioned as an All-America in 1964; Larry Vargo, a teammate of Alderman’s both at U-D and in the pros for a few years; Steve Stonebreaker, now in the New Orleans front office; Bruce Maher, formerly of the Lions and Giants; and Mike Haggerty, formerly of the New England Patriots.

Detroit got a pro franchise of its own in 1934 and the new Lions resided at U-D Stadium.

In 1935, led by Dutch Clark, a runner compared to Red Grange and a complete triple-threat player, the Lions went all the way and won the NFL championship.

The championship game was played at Six Mile and Livernois.

The 1936 Lions team, last to play its regular season games at U-D, boasted another great in Byron “Whizzer” White, an All-America in college and an all-NFL selection now in the Hall of Fame. Oh yeah, he also got to be a famous lawyer and is now a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Years later the Lions returned for their pre-season practices for about ten years until they moved to Cranbrook, their present summer camp.

But they were at U-D during the Lions’ golden years.

These were the Lions of power when they gained their reputation for a strong physical club and won another championship, led by Bobby Layne in 1957.

The greatest Lions ever played here.