The University of Michigan Athletic Department thought it was out in front of the game when it began working with a vendor well ahead of its target date to secure custom brass coins honoring George Jewett, the first African American football player in the Big Ten. But when that vendor’s Chinese supplier dropped the ball, the team at Medalcraft Mint performed its own version of a two-minute drive to save the day.
Michigan athletic department administration had planned for the medallions to arrive in time for the Wolverines’ October 23, 2021, game against Northwestern. The game was the first in which the winner would take home the George Jewett Trophy in honor of Jewett’s status as the first African American player at both schools.
Upon learning of the situation, our Wisconsin-based team was able to produce a high-quality proof on short notice, and the first order of coins arrived in Ann Arbor in time for a reception attended by Jewett’s descendants the night before the game. One of the coins was then used at the coin flip prior to kickoff, and a subsequent order provided medals for the Michigan players and staff, as well as some for the Northwestern program.
Jewett played for Michigan from 1890-92, where he studied medicine and was regarded as one of the greatest football stars of the era. He left abruptly after a dispute with the dean of medicine and transferred to Northwestern, where he received his medical degree while playing a final year of football for the Wildcats.