NFF College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Rob Lytle
ASN will profile all 17 new members in advance of the Dec. 8 NFF awards dinner in New York City.
The late Rob Lytle, one of the workhorse players for Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler’s powerhouse Ann Arbor teams in the mid-1970s, joins his late coach and teammate Dave Brown in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Lytle passed away in 2010 of a heart attack at age 56, and his only son, Kelly, will accept the plaque for induction into the Hall on Dec. 8 at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. When the 33-year-old Kelly was born, it was opening day of the 1982 NFL season, and his father, who was a key player for the Denver Broncos, had to be rushed in a police car from the hospital to make the kickoff at Mile High Stadium.
Rob Lytle was nominated in 2003 and has been on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame every year since 2006. And, according to his son, the family was caught off guard when the word came in January that he had actually been accepted into the royal fraternity -- via a football in a box.
“Every year they would send out the list of nominees and somebody would see his name,” Kelly said “They would send me or dad a note. We would tell them he has been up for this for awhile. I don’t think he expected to get in too much.”
Rob Lytle posted 3,317 yards rushing at Michigan, and he scored 26 touchdowns during his three varsity seasons. He finished as Michigan’s career rushing leader at the time, and he also gained at least 100 yards rushing in a game 15 times.
“He was most known for how tough he was and how hard-nosed he was,” said Kelly Lytle, who has written a book about his relationship with his father, To Dad from Kelly. “At Michigan he played both fullback and tailback when Bo needed him to show his willingness to gain tough yards. He got all his accolades for his yards. But what mattered most to him, and I think he would say this, was his blocking. He said he was an offensive lineman in a running back’s body.”
Lytle went on to play seven seasons with the Denver Broncos after being selected in the second round of the 1976 draft. He rushed for 1,451 yards, and he scored 12 touchdowns, adding 562 receiving yards and another two scores during his professional career. It was highlighted by his rookie season when the Broncos lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XII. Lytle holds the distinction of being the first player to score a touchdown in both the Super Bowl and the Rose Bowl.
“He was a great competitor and such a great leader,” said former Michigan quarterback Rick Leach, a college teammate, at the time of Lytle’s passing. “In my opinion, Rob was what a Michigan man is all about. He cared about the team, he cared about Big Ten titles and would do anything to make the team better.”
He claimed the Wolverine’s Maulbetsch Award for desire, character and leadership on, off the field.
Kelly added: “Dad did not talk much about his career either at Michigan or in the pros. He tended to focus on a loss at the Rose Bowl or the Orange Bowl or Super Bowl with Denver… In terms of his on-field play he was never one to glorify himself. It was not part of his makeup.”
Above: Rob Lytle was most known for his toughness. (Courtesy U-M Athletic Department)