All-Time Leaders: Longest Punt Returns

All-Time Leaders: Longest Punt Returns

September 4, 2020
Desmond Howard

Last time I posted the longest punt returns in Michigan history (LINK). Today we’ll look at the longest punt returns for the program.

Each of these plays scored unless otherwise noted.

  1. 93 yards – Desmond Howard (1991 vs. Ohio State)
  2. 88 yards – David Brown (1974 vs. Colorado)
  3. 84 yards – Gilvanni Johnson (1985 vs. Minnesota)
  4. 83 yards – Gil Chapman (1973 vs. Oregon)
  5. 83 yards – Darrell Harper (1959 vs. Minnesota)
  6. 83 yards – David Brown (1972 vs. Navy)
  7. 83 yards – Steve Breaston (2006 vs. Indiana)
  8. 82 yards – Terry Barr (1955 vs. Army)
  9. 80 yards – Derrick Alexander (1992 vs. Michigan State)
  10. 79 yards – Derrick Alexander (1993 vs. North Carolina State)
  11. 79 yards – Donovan Peoples-Jones (2017 vs. Air Force)
  12. 78 yards – Anthony Carter (1982 vs. Notre Dame)
  13. 78 yards – Charles Woodson (1997 vs. Ohio State)
  14. 76 yards – Leon Hall (2004 vs. Indiana)
  15. 75 yards – Lowell Perry (1951 vs. Minnesota)
  16. 74 yards – Steve Breaston (2003 vs. Illinois)
  17. 73 yards – Martavious Odoms (2008 vs. Purdue)
  18. 72 yards – Amani Toomer (1994 vs. Illinois)
  19. 72 yards – Steve Breaston (2005 vs. Eastern Michigan)*
  20. 70 yards – Derrick Alexander (1992 vs. Indiana)

*Did not score

Here’s a great compilation video of a bunch of these scores:

Not just for distance, but Desmond Howard’s punt return was probably the most outstanding. His quickness in and out of cuts, as well as his acceleration, stood out above most of the other guys, right up there with Anthony Carter.

Derrick Alexander has 3 touchdowns on this list, and he added a fourth against Penn State that was much shorter (48 yards).


  1. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 04, 2020 at 10:56 AM

    Is it just a strange coincidence that 5 of these 20 happened between ’91-94

    • Comments: 1357
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Sep 04, 2020 at 11:16 AM

      It was probably the 1990 Preseason Michigan Replay show and Brandy says to Bo, “You’ve lost Greg McMurtrey, John Kolesar, Chris Calloway and Dan Jokisch to graduation. How are you going to replace those guys in your offense?

      Bo doesn’t even bother with the “You don’t replace great blah, blah blah like those guys.” Instead he gets real smug looking like only Bo could and says, I got two young kids, might be better.”

      Desmond Howard and Derrick Alexander.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 04, 2020 at 11:41 AM

      In my years of watching Michigan football, that late ’80s/early ’90s stretch was the most fruitful for standout skill athletes at Michigan. So it’s probably a little bit of a coincidence and a little bit of pure talent. Desmond Howard, Derrick Alexander, Tyrone Wheatley, Ricky Powers, Tim Biakabutuka, Amani Toomer, Jesse Johnson, Mercury Hayes…

      There have been other good combos and stretches, but some of those guys were just outstanding, and Michigan seemed to have a clear alpha male – or two – every single year. It seems like since then, things have gone back and forth between good O, good D, good OL, bad everything, etc.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Sep 04, 2020 at 1:09 PM

        I thought Moeller really kicked things up a notch by emphasizing a more open passing offense that gradually drew a higher caliber at both WR and QB through into the Carr era.

        It really began, in my mind, with Grbac/Howard/Alexander. After that you had a pipeline going at QB to the NFL and the receivers followed suit. A parade of 5-stars really with only a Henson/Navarre blip until Carr exited.

        For me the 2000s were the peak for WRs, beginning with that Terrell/Walker class and going through Edwards, Avant, Breaston, Manningham. Most of our guys were going onto the NFL through that era and the recruiting classes were packed with blue chips.

        Neither Hoke nor Rodriguez had the horses, but Hoke looked to be crushing it at TE (Funchess and Butt) and Rodriguez at QB (Denard and Forcier). Who knows what would have happened if those guys hadn’t sucked so horribly on one side of the ball.

        At RB, Michigan always had solid talent under Bo but it was the OL that was great. It’s amazing that there’s never been a standout pro back from Michigan with the exception of Ron Johnson.

  2. Comments: 1357
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Sep 04, 2020 at 11:05 AM

    Derrick Alexander too.

    • Comments: 1357
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Sep 04, 2020 at 11:16 AM

      On Michigan’s best punt return guys.

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