Documentary Highlights NMU’s ‘Worst To First’ Title Season [Video]
An inspirational story that is on the level of the 1980 Olympic Hockey team's gold medal win, NMU's championship season in 1975 is now documented in a film that is drawing national attention
45 years ago, the Wildcats of Northern Michigan stunned the college football world by taking the NCAA Division II title, only a year after failing to win a single game.
Their story was crystallized in a documentary film, 'Put Your Hand On The Line' that will be featured in a national online film festival this weekend.
The Dances With Films Festival will highlight 14 films starting Thursday. The Festival is normally held at the TCL Chinese theater in Los Angeles, but this year, will be conducted virtually online because of the pandemic. Which means you can watch the films for $11. You can sign up online here.
The team was led by future Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci, who was the Wildcats' quarterback.
The description for the movie on the DWFLA makes it seem pretty intense. the film is narrated by NFL Network host Rich Eisen:
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a land of extremes – of harsh winters and spectacular beauty. On its northern border sits Lake Superior and the port city of Marquette, home to Northern Michigan University. And in the 1970s, the NMU Wildcats football team put those staggering extremes on vivid display. From the agony of a winless season, they set out to experience whatever existed on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum – and went on a journey that, decades later, still defies belief.
The film was produced by Jack Hirn, who was a punter on the championship team.
“We had no inclination that we would go on to win the national championship,” Hirn told the Marquette Mining Journal. “We were happy to win three-fourths of the games. Four new freshman were starting on defense that year.
“This is not just a sports story. It’s a human-interest story about overcoming odds when they are against you. On paper, there was no way that we should have won those games, but we did. We just never gave up.”
The 1975 title was the second in a row in Division II for a Michigan school, as Central won it in 1974. In fact, on this highlight reel, it was an upset of CMU in Mt. Pleasant that was the catalyst for the Wildcats title.