HOUGHTON, Mich. — Michigan Tech Sports Hall of Famer Jim VanWagner, the Tech football program’s all-time leading rusher, passed away Nov. 29 at his home in Grants Pass, Oregon, at age 59.
VanWagner played for the Huskies from 1973-76, accumulating 4,788 career yards—most in Tech history and third-most in NCAA Division II at the time. The Novi, Mich., native also set records for rushing yards in a game (286) and season (1,453) and rushing touchdowns in a game (six).
After his senior season (1976), he gained numerous awards including All-America, Academic All-America, the Glen Galligan Award (recognizing him as the Northern Intercollegiate Conference’s Outstanding Senior Athlete), the Football Roundup Exemplary Player Award (recognizing him as the outstanding Division II or III football player in the nation), team most valuable player, and the Michigan Tech Senior Male Student-Athlete of the Year Award.
VanWagner still holds several Northern Intercollegiate Conference records and was a three-time All-NIC first team selection for his efforts.
Following graduation, VanWagner was drafted by the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers in the seventh round and later played two seasons for the New Orleans Saints. He returned to Tech as an assistant football coach and head track coach from 1980-82. He was inducted into the Michigan Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
VanWagner went on to pursue a medical degree and serve as an orthopedic surgeon in Traverse City, Mich., for 20 years before retiring in 2009.
(Information/Photo Courtesy of MTU Athletics)