The 1950 Washington & Lee football team was the first and last team ever to represent the University in a post-season bowl game. Led by fullback/line-backer Walt Michaels, a senior from Swoyerville, PA, the 1950 Generals finished their regular season at 8-2, and won W & L’s first Southern Conference title since 1934. Washington & Lee, under head coach George Barclay, completed their “now or never year” with a selection for the 1951 Gator Bowl game in Jacksonville, FL. Walt led the Generals to their eventual bowl bid scoring ten touchdowns, and kicking 29 extra points. “Big Mike” carried the ball 119 times his senior season for 712 yards, a 6.0 average. Surprisingly, of those 119 carries, not one resulted in a loss of yardage. Michaels was the team leading rusher on a ball club that managed to gain 2,995 rushing yards in ten games. Not only was Michaels a workhorse on offense, he was also a standout on a defense that allowed only 39 points in six conference games. He was billed by many as the best linebacker in Virginia during the 1949 and 1950 seasons.
Michaels was known as a player who loved contact. The 1950 Washington & Lee football press guide was quoted as saying, “Ushers will move the women and children from the front rows when Michaels is in action.” As a fullback, he received numerous 1950 honors. Michaels was named second team All-Southern by United Press International, and third team All-Southern by Associated Press. He was also named Virginia’s Back of the Week in October of 1950, and was voted W & L’s Most Valuable Performer in the fall of 1949.
Michaels was listed as the one member of the 1950 team with the most promising professional potential. That synopsis proved to be correct as he played linebacker for the Cleveland Browns from 1952 to 1961 after starting his pro career with the Green Bay Packers. He was an All-Pro for a number of seasons with the Browns. Michaels was a 4-time All-Pro linebacker in his 10 seasons with Cleveland, during which time the Browns won 5 division titles and 2 world championships.
In 1962, Michaels began a pro coaching career with the Oakland Raiders. In 1963, a personal call from future Hall of Fame Coach Weeb Ewbank brought him to the New York Jets as defensive line coach and then defensive coordinator through 1972, during which time the Jets won Super Bowl III. After 3 seasons (1973-75) as defensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles, Michaels returned to the Jets prior to the 1976 season. In November of 1976, he was named head coach of the NFL’s New York Jets. He is W & L’s first and only head coach in the NFL ranks. Michaels became head coach of Donald Trump’s New Jersey Generals in the USFL for the 1984-85 seasons, and then retired.