Neil Snow (November 10, 1879 – January 22, 1914) gained renown as an all-around athlete at the University of Michigan from 1898–1902, where he competed in football, baseball, track and field, and tennis. He was an All-American player in 1901, and was the Most Valuable player in the 1902 Rose Bowl, where he scored five touchdowns. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1960. Snow was born into a wealthy family in Detroit. At the University of Michigan, Snow was the captain of the football, baseball and track teams, and had the distinction of winning more varsity letters than any other man—four in baseball, four in football and three in track.
Snow played four seasons for the Michigan Wolverines football team (1898–1901) at the end and fullback positions. As a freshman, he started all ten games at the end position. The 1898 team went 10–0 and won Michigan’s first Western Conference football championship, finishing the season with a 12–11 win over the University of Chicago that inspired Louis Elbel to write The Victors, Michigan’s fight song. Elbel’s lyric, “Champions of the West,” refers to Michigan’s having won the Western Conference championship for the first time in the school’s history. Snow was also the captain of the 1900 team, but his fame grew as a result of his role on the 1901 team, considered by some the greatest Michigan football team of all time. In Fielding H. Yost’s first year as coach, Michigan finished 11–0, did not allow a single point to be scored by an opposing team, and outscored its opponents 550–0. The 1901 Wolverines became known as the “point-a-minute” team, as their offensive production resulted in an average of one point being scored every minute. The 1901 team was invited to play in the first Rose Bowl game on January 1, 1902, a 49–0 win over Stanford. Snow’s five touchdowns and 25 points (touchdowns counted for five points) in the 1902 Rose Bowl is still the all-time Rose Bowl record. Snow was named the Most Valuable Player of the game when the award was created in 1953 and selections were made retroactively.
Snow died suddenly in January 1914 at age 34. He became ill after a vigorous game of squash at the Detroit Racquet Club and was taken to the doctor’s office, where he collapsed. Snow’s sudden death at age 34 was seen as a cautionary tale of “the great over-do it age.”
The noted football expert Walter Camp said of Snow: “No college ever developed a better all-around athlete.” He has been called “the greatest all-round athlete ever graduated from the University of Michigan” and was named a member of Fielding H. Yost’s “all-time” Michigan team at the right end position. In 1907, The Washington Post named Snow one of the three greatest football players to have played in the West, along with Walter Eckersall and Willie Heston. The Post opined that Snow was an end quite worthy to rank with the great ends of the East and that he “was just the kind of man who would have been suited to the advanced requirements of the new game and its additional demand for alertness, in an end.” In 1916, the Oakland Tribune published an article ranking Snow as one of North America’s greatest all-around athletes, naming Snow, Elmer Oliphant and Christy Mathewson as the runners-up to Jim Thorpe.
In 1960, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.