LEXINGTON, Ky. – Lou Michaels, a stalwart tackle during the era of one-platoon football, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and 13-year veteran of the National Football League, passed away Tuesday in his native Swoyersville, Pa., at the age of 80.
“UK Athletics has lost one of our all-time greats in the passing of Lou Michaels,” said Kentucky director of athletics Mitch Barnhart. “He was an incredible competitor during a time when players played both offense and defense. As a UK retired jersey honoree, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and an All-Pro player in the NFL, Lou was one of the most honored Wildcats in the history of UK football. Our condolences go to his wife, Judy, and their children and family.”
Michaels came to the University of Kentucky in the autumn of 1954 and made an immediate impression on the “Kittens” freshman team, earning comparisons to Wildcat legend and Outland Trophy winner Bob Gain. Playing for head coach Blanton Collier, Michaels began fulfilling those expectations when he advanced to the varsity a year later.
Competing in both the offensive and defensive lines, and also a placekicker and punter, Michaels was named third-team All-Southeastern Conference as a sophomore and also chosen to the Sophomore All-SEC team.
Michaels blossomed into a consensus All-American as a junior and senior in 1956 and ‘57 at a time when only 11 players were recognized on the national teams. He was voted SEC Player of the Year by the league coaches as a senior and finished fourth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy. He was chosen as the Outstanding SEC Lineman by the Birmingham Touchdown Club in 1956 and the Outstanding SEC Lineman by the Atlanta Touchdown Club in 1957. He was given credit for “almost singlehandedly” defeating Tennessee in Wildcat wins over the Volunteers in his sophomore and senior seasons.
The No. 4 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft, Michaels went on to a 13-year professional career, playing for the Los Angeles Rams (1958-60), Pittsburgh Steelers (1961-63), Baltimore Colts (1964-69) and Green Bay Packers (1971). He was named All-Pro in 1962 and ’63 and was a member of the Colts team that played in Super Bowl III in 1969.
Michaels’ jersey (No. 79) was retired by UK Athletics in 1990. Two years later, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He also was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.