Matt Patanelli
Michigan Wolverines
Matt Patanelli, 1936
Date of birth: (1914-07-13)July 13, 1914
Place of birth: Elkhart, Indiana
Date of death: May 27, 1992(1992-05-27) (aged 77)
Career information
Position(s): End/Halfback
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
College: University of Michigan
High school: Elkhart High School
 As coach:
Western Michigan (assistant)
Western Michigan (assistant)
Michigan (defensive ends)
Michigan (ends)
 As player:
1934–1936 Michigan
Career highlights and awards
Awards: Most Valuable Player, 1936 Michigan Wolverines football team

Matthew L. "Matt" Patanelli (July 13, 1914 – May 27, 1992) was an American football, baseball and basketball player and coach. He played and coached all three sports at the University of Michigan and was selected as the Most Valuable Player on the 1936 Michigan Wolverines football team. He was also the first University of Michigan football player to be selected in an NFL Draft. He was an assistant football coach at Western Michigan University (1944, 1948–1951) and the University of Michigan (1953–1958).

Early years in Elkhart, IndianaEdit

Patanelli was born in Elkhart, Indiana, in 1914. He was a star athlete at Elkhart High School, earning 12 letters in football, basketball and track,[1] and serving as the captain of the football and basketball teams.[2] He was selected as an All State football player in 1931 and 1932,[1] and graduated from Elkhart High School in 1933.[2]

University of MichiganEdit

Patanelli enrolled at the University of Michigan in the fall of 1933 and played for the Michigan Wolverines football, baseball and basketball teams.[2] He played on Michigan's freshman football team in 1933,[3] and received the Chicago alumni award, also known as the Meyer Morton Award, during spring practice in 1934 as the most promising freshman prospect.[4][5]

As a sophomore in 1934, Patanelli played at both the end and halfback positions as a teammate of Gerald R. Ford.[6]

He was a starter for Michigan at the end position in 1935 and 1936.[7][8] In October 1935, Patanelli recovered an Indiana fumble in the end zone for the game's only touchdown, giving Michigan its first Big Ten Conference victory since 1933.[9][10] At the end of the 1935 season, Patanelli was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten Conference player.[7][11] He was also elected by his teammates to serve as captain of the 1936 Michigan Wolverines football team.[12]

In 1936, Patanelli started all 8 games at the left end position for Michigan despite suffering from a strained ankle. The team finished with a record of 1-7, achieving its only victory against Columbia University.[8] Patanelli's play was one of the few bright spots for Michigan in the 1936 season, and he was selected as the team's Most Valuable Player.[4][13] At the time of his selection as the 1936 Most Valuable Player, Michigan head coach Harry Kipke said, "He's a grand person and a great leader. He had courage and this year had to play under a handicap -- a bad ankle. I'm sorry for one thing and it is that Matt never had the privilege of playing on a winning football team. Had he had this chance he certainly would have been picked on some all star eleven."[4] Kipke's belief that Patanelli would have been selected as an All-American if he played for a better team was shared by Associated Press sports correspondent "Pap," who wrote:

"Capt. Matt Patanelli of Michigan, in the opinion of numerous Big Ten officials and coaches, would rate an end job on any mythical eleven if he were playing with a winner this season. Michigan's grid fortunes have been at a low ebb, but this hasn't prevented Matt from turning in great games, especially on the defense, each Saturday afternoon. Against Minnesota, when the Wolverines were routed 26-0, Patanelli broke into the Minnesota backfleld twice to throw runners for losses and his pass interception on the Michigan 7-yard line prevented another Gopher score."[14]

Michigan's ends coach (and future College Football Hall of Fame inductee) Bennie Oosterbaan called Patanelli "the best blocking end he has coached."[15]

Patanelli was voted by fans as a member of the Chicago Tribune College Football All-American team that defeated the Green Bay Packers 6-0 in the College All-Star Game in August 1937.[1][16][17] He was also selected as a third-team All-American by the Associated Press.[18]

Patanelli was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 9th round (85th overall pick) of the 1937 NFL Draft, making him the first University of Michigan football player selected in the NFL Draft.[19]

Coaching careerEdit

Patanelli later served as an athletic coach at Western Michigan University.[20] Among other coaching responsibilities, he was the ends coach and chief scout for the Western Michigan football team in 1944 and from 1948 to 1951.[1][21]

In July 1952, he returned to the University of Michigan as an assistant coach,[20] assisting with the baseball, basketball and football teams.[2][22] He was an assistant football coach at Michigan under head coach Bennie Oosterbaan from 1953 to 1958. Patanelli was in charge of the defensive ends in 1953 and was the lead ends coach from 1954 to 1958.[22][23] In that capacity, he helped develop All-Americans Ron Kramer and Tom Maentz.[24][25]


Patanelli has been inducted into the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame and the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.[1][2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "PATANELLI, MATTHEW "MATT"". Indiana Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Matt Patanelli". Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  3. "33 Frosh Candidates for Wolverine Eleven Are Given Numerals". Ludington Daily News. 1933-11-24.,4967481&dq=matt-patanelli&hl=en.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Patanelli Picked". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1936-11-25.,+1936&author=&pub=Chicago+Tribune&desc=PATANELLI+PICKED&pqatl=google.("Matt Patanelli of Elkhart, Ind., end and captain of the Michigan football team, was named the squad's most valuable player today.")
  5. "The Meyer Morton Award". University of Michigan.
  6. "1934 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "1935 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "1936 Football Team". University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library.
  9. "MICHIGAN DEFEATS INDIANA BY 7 TO 0; Patanelli Recovers Free Ball in End Zone for Touchdown in Second Period". The New York Times. 1935-10-13.
  10. "Michigan Wins Over Indiana". Sarasota Herald (AP story). 1935-10-13.,858758&dq=matt-patanelli&hl=en.
  11. "SIMMONS NAMED TO ALL-BIG TEN HALFBACK POST". Ames Daily Tribune-Times. 1935-11-21.(Patanelli selected as first-team All-Big Ten player by the United Press)
  12. "Patanelli Leads Michigan". The Christian Science Monitor. 1935-12-04.("Matthew L. Patanelli '37 of Elkhart, Ind., has been elected captain of the 1936 University of Michigan varsity football team.")
  13. "Michigan Honors Patanelli". The New York Times. 1936-11-26.
  14. Pap (1936-11-03). "Many Players Turning in Grand Games Make Teams, Don't Crash Headlines: Fred Vanzo, Blocking Back at Northwestern is Typical Example; Patanelli of Michigan of All-America Calibre; Toth of Wildcats Does Excellent Job of Punting". The Piqua Daily Call, Piqua, Ohio.
  15. Arch Ward (1937-02-05). "Talking It Over". Chicago Daily Tribune.
  16. "The Starting All-Americans! They're Ready for Great Battle with Packers". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1937-08-29.
  17. "GOOD SQUAD PICKED BY FOOTBALL FANS; Big Names Dot Roster of the 1936 College Stars Who Will Play Packers; 5,000,000 VOTES CAST". The New York Times. 1937-07-29.
  18. "East Places Most Players on AssociatedPress 1936 AU-America Eleven". Titusville Herald. 1936-12-05.
  19. "Michigan's National Football League Draft History". University of Michigan. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "MICHIGAN NAMES PERIGO COACH". Chicago Daily Tribune. 1952-07-27.,+1952&author=&pub=Chicago+Tribune&desc=MICHIGAN+NAMES+PERIGO+COACH&pqatl=google.
  21. "Football Records: All-Time Coaches". Western Michigan University. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Grid Coaching Shuffle Made by Oosterbaan". Record-Eagle. 1953-03-25.("Matt Patanelli, assistant basketball coach, was named defensive end coach and scout during the grid season, in addition to his basketball duties.")
  23. "Don Dufek and Robert Hollway Named to Michigan Grid Staff". Ironwood Daily Globe. 1954-04-16.("Matthew L. (Matt) Patanelli, defensive ends coach last fall, was elevated to top end coach. ... Patanelli captained the 1936 Michigan eleven. He was an assistant in football and baseball at Western Michigan college before returning to Michigan as coach.")
  24. Jerry Green (1957-09-11). "Michigan End Coach Really Misses Stars". The Owosso Argus-Press.,6034696&dq=patanelli&hl=en.
  25. Jerry Green (1957-09-11). "End Candidates Improve at U-M". Ironwood Daily Globe.("For three years Matt Patanelli was just about the most envied end coach in the nation. He had Ron Kramer and Tom Maentz playing for him at Michigan.")
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