Michigan Football: All Time Best Kick/Punt Returners

Here are the best kick/punt returners in Michigan Football history

tony boles michigan#12 – Tony Boles: The speedster was an outstanding kickoff returner. He returned 25 kickoffs for 639 yards in his career, including an 85 yarder for a touchdown against Purdue in 1989. Boles’ career kickoff return average of 25.6 yards ranks third on the All Time list. In 1989 he averaged 28.2 yards per return, which is the fourth best single season average in school history.



mercury hayes michigan#11 – Mercury Hayes: He ranks 4th in school history with 999 career kick off return yards. He also returned 23 punts in his career for 169 yards. Hayes never returned a kick or punt for a TD. Hayes had a career long 47 yard kick off return in Michigan’s 1994 win at Notre Dame.




tripp welborne michigan#10 – Tripp Welborne: An outstanding punt returner, Welborne returned 67 punts for 773 yards in his career (1987-90). That is good for a punt return average of 11.5 yards which ranks sixth on the All Time list. Welborne’s 773 punt return yards ranks as the third highest total in school history. As good a returner as he was, Welborne never returned a punt for a touchdown.

Welborne also ranks #3 on Michigan Football’s all-time best defensive backs list.


Michigan Football kick returners#9 – Jamie Morris: Morris was an explosive kickoff returner. He ranks fourth in school history with 1,052 kickoff return yards. Morris averaged 20.1 yards per return in his career (1984-87). His career long came in his freshmen year against Northwestern when he returned a kick 80 yards.

Morris ranks #5 on Michigan Football’s all-time best running backs list.



john kolesar michigan#8 – John Kolesar: An outstanding big play receiver, Kolesar was also a tremendous kickoff and punt returner in his career (1985-88). Kolesar returned 25 punts in his career for 516 yards. He also returned 55 kickoffs for 484 yards. He had a career long 59 yard kickoff return and 60 yard punt return. He ranks eighth in school history with a combined 977 kickoff/punt return yards.



gil chapman jersey jet michigan#7 – Gil Chapman: The “Jersey Jet” was an outstanding kickoff and punt returner in his Michigan career (1972-74). One of only two Michigan players since 1948 to return both a kickoff and punt for a touchdown. Chapman has two career punt return touchdowns and one kickoff return touchdown. His 83 yard punt return TD in 1973 against Oregon is tied for the fifth longest punt return in school history. His combined kickoff and punt return yards of 1,104 ranks sixth on the All Time list.



gene derricotte michigan#6 – Gene Derricotte: He holds the school record with 3 punt returns for touchdowns in a single season (1947). Derricotte finished his career (1944-48) with 4 punt return TDs which ties him for first on the All Time list. He averaged 13.7 yards per punt return in his career which is second in school history. Derricotte’s 751 career punt return yards is 4th best in school history. After college Derricotte served as a Tuskegee Airman.



derrick alexander michigan#5 – Derrick Alexander: In his career (1989-93) he returned 4 punts for touchdowns and had back to back seasons with 2 punt returns for touchdowns in 1992-93. He ranks 5th in school history with a combined 1,165 kick/punt return yards. In his career Alexander averaged 12.7 yards per punt return which is third on the All Time list. He averaged 23.4 yards per kickoff return in his career which is 7th on the All Time list.



Tom Harmon Michigan#4 – Tom Harmon: He did it all and that includes being the only player in school history to return two kick/punts for touchdowns in the same game. He accomplished that feat in a 1940 game at California.

Harmon also ranks as the Harmon also ranks as #2 on Michigan Football’s all-time best running backs list, #5 on Michigan Football’s all-time best kickers list and #6 on Michigan Football’s all-time best punter list.


anthony carter michigan#3 – Anthony Carter: The human torpedo was a sensational kick/punt returner. He ranks second in school history with 2,510 combined kick/punt return yards. Carter is second on the All Time kickoff return list with a career average of 26.3 yards per return. Carter’s combined kickoff/punt return yards of 2,510 ranks second in school history. He is one of only two players to top the 2,000 yard mark in total return yards.

A three-time All-American, Anthony Carter is the best wide receiver in the history of Michigan Football.


desmond howard michigan#2 – Desmond Howard: The magic man was an electric returner. He is the only Wolverine to ever return more then one kick off for a touchdown. Howard did it twice; a 93 yarder at Boston College in 1991 and a 95 yarder against Michigan State in 1990. Howard is Michigan’s All Time leader in yards per kick return with a 26.9 average. In Michigan’s 1991 victory over Ohio State Howard returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown and struck the Heisman pose in the end zone.

The 1991 Heisman Trophy winner, Howard is the 2nd best wide receiver to ever play at Michigan.

steve breaston michigan#1 – Steve Breaston: To top this list you have to be one incredible kick/punt returner and over his career (2003-06) Steve Breaston was one of those rare talents who excelled at both kickoff and punt returns. He returned 4 punts and 1 kickoff for touchdowns in his career for a total of 5 return TDs. That is the highest total of any Michigan player. In 2003 Breaston returned two punts for touchdowns and set a school record compiling 619 punt return yards.
He is Michigan’s career leader in punt return yards with 1,599 which is almost 700 yards more then the next player on the list. He is also the career leader in kickoff return yards with 1,993.
Breaston holds the top two spots on the single season kickoff return yards list with 689 and 646 yards. In the 2005 Rose Bowl Breaston had 221 kickoff return yards.
Breaston’s combined kick and punt return career yards of 3,592 is over 1,000 yards more then the next closest player.

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  • citizen2000

    You said that Gene Dericotte served as a Tuskegee airman after college but he actually was drafted after playing the 1944 season and trained as a Tuskegee airman until 1946 and then returned to the University of Michigan. It is also interesting to note that he was one of the two first black students who were admitted to Michigan’s senior honor society, Michigamua, in 1948,

    • isportsweb

      Thanks for clarifying that. I’ll update his bio, which is very impressive

  • LansingBlue

    no Charles Woodson?

    • http://isportsweb.com Rob White

      He only returned 3 kick offs in his career and 47 punts for an 8.7 yard average with 1 famous TD that makes everyone ask, why isn’t he on this list. 
      In 1996 he only returned 11 punts in 3 games for 106 yards (9.6 yard average).
      In 1997 he returned 36 punts for 301 yards (8.4 average) with the 1 TD.