Jim Harbaugh, Pudge Rodriguez highlight Michigan Sports Hall of Fame 2024 class

The Michigan Sports Hall of Fame has announced its 2024 class, which consists of 12 titans in Michigan athletics.

Highlighted by former Michigan football head coach and quarterback Jim Harbaugh and all-time great Detroit Tigers like Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez and Cecil Fielder, this year's class, consisting of professionals, amateurs, coaches and media members, will be the 70th to be inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

Members are scheduled to be honored during the 2024 induction event Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Sound Board Theater at MotorCity Casino Hotel. Tickets start at $25. Here is the 2024 class, listed in alphabetical order.

Earl Cureton

A Detroit native, the man nicknamed "The Twirl" starred for Finney High School before attending Robert Morris and then transferring to the University of Detroit and leading the Titans to the 1979 NCAA tournament.

U-D's Earl Cureton stuffs one against U-M in 1979.
U-D's Earl Cureton stuffs one against U-M in 1979.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 5.4 points and 4.7 rebounds across 674 NBA games, which included three seasons with the Detroit Pistons. Cureton won championships with the Philadelphia 76ers (1982-83) and the Houston Rockets (1993-94) and in retirement remained a fixture in the Detroit community. He served as a community ambassador for the Pistons for more than a decade before he passed away in February 2024.

"Earl was one of the most generous, positive and caring people I knew," Pistons owner Tom Gores said.

Braylon Edwards

Perhaps the top wide receiver to ever play at Michigan, he went on to be a top-three NFL draft selection. A Detroit native, Edwards starred in high school at Harper Woods Bishop Gallagher before he took his talents to Ann Arbor.

Michigan's Braylon Edwards, left, makes this touchdown catch over Michigan State's Jaren Hayes in the the 4th quarter on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2004, in Ann Arbor.
Michigan's Braylon Edwards, left, makes this touchdown catch over Michigan State's Jaren Hayes in the the 4th quarter on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2004, in Ann Arbor.

At Michigan, he took it to another level, winning the 2004 Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver; he remains the lone player in Big Ten history to record three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards. During his senior year (2004), he set program season records for receptions (97) and receiving yards (1,330). He finished his career with 252 receptions, 3,541 yards, and 39 touchdowns as he was named a unanimous All-American.

Edwards was drafted No. 3 overall by the Cleveland Browns — still the highest selection for any skill position player from Michigan in the modern era — and played for four NFL teams across parts of seven years. Edwards caught 359 passes for 5,522 yards and 40 touchdowns in 112 games.

Tony Esposito

The Sault. Ste. Marie native remains one of the top goaltenders in NHL history, starring for the Detroit Red Wings' longtime rival Chicago Black Hawks. A star at Michigan Tech, where he was a three-time first-team All-American and the driving force that propelled the Huskies to the 65 NCAA title, Esposito played a year in both the Western Hockey League and Central Hockey League before he began his NHL career.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito (35) and defender Keith Magnuson (3) in action against Detroit Red Wings right wing Gordie Howe (9) during the 1970 season.
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito (35) and defender Keith Magnuson (3) in action against Detroit Red Wings right wing Gordie Howe (9) during the 1970 season.

In 1968, he became the third American drafted by an NHL team (by the Montreal Canadiens); after just five games with the Habs, he was claimed in the inter-league waiver draft by Chicago. His run with the Black Hawks included a modern NHL record with 15 shutouts in 1969-70 and then his career-best year in 1970-71, when he allowed just 1.71 goals per game. A three-time Vezina Trophy winner, the left-handed netminder was perhaps best known for popularizing the butterfly-style goaltending technique that would come to dominate the NHL in the 1980s and 90s. Esposito died in 2021.

Cecil Fielder

Hank Greenberg hit 58 home runs in 1938, which still remains a Tigers franchise record. The only other Tigers player to 50 homers since? Cecil Fielder, in 1990.

The father of Prince Fielder, who also became a power-hitting first baseman for the Tigers, Fielder was a three-time All-Star in seven seasons in Detroit. Fielder led the MLB in home runs and RBIs in 1990 and 1991; he entered the final game of the 1990 season with 49 long balls before homering twice at Yankee Stadium to reach the mythic milestone. The two-time Silver Slugger Award winner came in second in MVP voting both seasons and finished with a .827 career OPS.

Larry Foote

A star in high school at Detroit Pershing and later a standout as a linebacker for the University of Michigan, Foote is elected into the Hall of Fame for what he did as a professional, predominantly with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Foote was a mainstay in the middle of the Steelers' defense — he spent 11 seasons in Pittsburgh, with a brief stop in Detroit in 2009 and then one final season with Arizona in 2014 — where he became a two-time Super Bowl champion. Foote played in 187 NFL games (134 starts) and finished with 818 tackles, including 65 for loss, 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and four interceptions.

Jim Harbaugh

Just a handful of months after Harbaugh led the Michigan Wolverines on a historic three-year run, he enters the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. A former U-M quarterback, Harbaugh returned to his alma mater as head football coach from 2015-2023 and led U-M to an 86-25 record.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh lifts up the trophy as players and coaches celebrate after their 34-13 win over Washington to win the national championship at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh lifts up the trophy as players and coaches celebrate after their 34-13 win over Washington to win the national championship at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

That includes the 2021-23 run, when U-M won three consecutive outright Big Ten championships for the first time in program history and defeated Ohio State three times in a row for the first time since 1995-97. 2023 brought a College Football Playoff berth, with Michigan outlasting Alabama 27-20 in the Rose Bowl in an OT thriller to go to the national title game. From there, it was all but a formality, as Harbaugh's Wolverines stomped Washington 34-13 to claim the 2023 title. Harbaugh is retuning to the NFL as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, following a four-year tenure with the San Francisco 49ers in which he reached three conference championship games, one Super Bowl (a loss to brother John's Baltimore Ravens) and never had a losing season.

Ken Holland

Whether there was a salary cap or not, Ken Holland brought winning hockey to Detroit. An executive with the Red Wings for three dozen years, which included 22 as a general manager, Holland helped build the Wings' four Stanley Cup-winning teams from 1996-2008.

George McPhee, left, of the Vegas Golden Knights, Ken Holland, center, of the Edmonton Oilers and Kelly McCrimmon, right, of the Vegas Golden Knights talk prior to the 2022 NHL draft at Bell Centre on July 7, 2022 in Montreal.
George McPhee, left, of the Vegas Golden Knights, Ken Holland, center, of the Edmonton Oilers and Kelly McCrimmon, right, of the Vegas Golden Knights talk prior to the 2022 NHL draft at Bell Centre on July 7, 2022 in Montreal.

The Red Wings were synonymous with winning under Holland's reign; under his leadership as GM the Red Wings won 10 Central Division titles, five regular-season conference titles, four Presidents' Trophies, and three Stanley Cups. Detroit won more regular-season games (789) and postseason games (118) than any other NHL team during his tenure.

Jake Long

The most recent University of Michigan football player to be taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft (2008), Long's standout career began at Lapeer East High School in the early 2000s, where he led the football team to a nine-game win streak as a senior and its first state playoff victory in 27 years. A standout basketball player in high school as well, Long led the hoops team to consecutive undefeated Metro League championships, the team's first title since 1989.

Michigan's Jake Long in 2007.
Michigan's Jake Long in 2007.

From there, Long went on to star at U-M. After redshirting his freshman year, Long earned a starting role in his second year on campus. Long evolved into a mainstay at left tackle, where he was a two-time All-American and was also twice named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. A captain his senior year, Long was a finalist for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award before he went No. 1 overall to the Miami Dolphins in April 2008.

Deanna Nolan

One of the best guards to ever play high school basketball, Deanna Nolan proved a versatile ball-handler and shooter as she led Flint Northern High School to back-to-back state championships in the mid-1990s.

Though the Flint native, who was named 1995 Michigan Miss Basketball as the state's best senior, opted to spend her collegiate days at Georgia, she found herself back in the Mitten State after she was taken No. 6 overall in the 2001 WNBA draft by the Detroit Shock.

Miss Basketball 1996: Deanna Nolan, Flint Northern (Georgia)
Miss Basketball 1996: Deanna Nolan, Flint Northern (Georgia)

Nicknamed "Tweety" and well known by fans for her jumping ability, Nolan not only helped the Shock win their first title in 2003, she was named MVP of the 2006 championship team and also was a contributing force on the 2008 champions. Nolan was a five-time All-Star (2003-07), was named the Shock's Player of the Year three straight seasons (2007-09) in voting by members of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association and was part of the WNBA 20th Anniversary team (2016).

Shawn Respert

A Detroit native and Bishop Borgess High School graduate, Respert rose to prominence as Michigan State's point guard under Jud Heathcote from 1991-95. Respert was the team's leading scorer in each of his four seasons in East Lansing; he finished his career second all-time in scoring among Big Ten players at 2,531 points (behind only Calbert Cheaney) and was first in scoring in Big Ten games with 1,545 points scored as he shot 48.4% from the floor and a lights-out 45.4% on 3-pointers.

Former Michigan State guard Shawn Respert kisses the Spartan "S" at center court following his final game in 1995. (Margie Garrison/Lansing State Journal file)
Former Michigan State guard Shawn Respert kisses the Spartan "S" at center court following his final game in 1995. (Margie Garrison/Lansing State Journal file)

As a senior, Respert averaged a career-high 25.6 points per game as he was named a unanimous All-American as well as Big Ten Player of the Year. For all of his accomplishments, perhaps his longest-standing impact came the last time he took the court at Breslin Center for MSU: When he was called to check out of the game, went to mid-court, knelt down and kissed the Spartans' Block S, beginning a tradition of Spartans kissing the mid-court logo when they check out on Senior Day.

Iván "Pudge" Rodríguez

The 2004 free-agent signing of Rodriguez, one of the greatest catchers in the history of the game, signaled the end of the Tigers' dreadful first decade under Ilitch ownership.

A Hall of Famer who was named to four All-Star games during his five seasons with the Tigers, Pudge was as key as anybody in leading the Tigers to the 2006 World Series, with the franchise just three years removed from losing 119 games. He still leads MLB catchers with the most All-Star Game selections (14) and Gold Gloves awards(13).

Don Shane

A fixture in the world of Detroit sports media, Don Shane, who first worked at WDIV-TV, later served as the Sports Director for WXYZ-TV (Ch. 7 in Detroit) for 23 years. He also won 23 Michigan Emmy Awards for his coverage of local sports. Shane covered three Pistons NBA titles, four Red Wings Stanley Cups, in addition to the Super Bowl at Ford Field, the 2004 Ryder Cup, the 1998 Rose Bowl and the Tigers' run to the 2006 World Series. Shane died in 2023 at the age of 70.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan Sports Hall of Fame: Jim Harbaugh, Pudge Rodriguez lead class

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