MSU Football Legend Sonny Grandelius Passes Away At Age 79

By: Michigan State University
By: Michigan State University

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Former Michigan State All-American Everett “Sonny” Grandelius died of natural causes on Friday, April 25 in Beverly Hills, Mich. He was 79.

Born April 16, 1929, Grandelius earned three letters for the Spartans from 1948-50, while playing for legendary football coach Clarence “Biggie” Munn. The 6-foot, 195-pound back helped Michigan State to a combined record of 20-6-2, including an 8-1 record and a Top 10 finish in 1950 (Associated Press No. 8 and United Press International No. 9).

As a senior, Grandelius became Michigan State’s first 1,000-yard rusher and just the 17th in college football history, gaining 1,023 yards on 163 carries (6.3 avg.). He recorded five 100-yard rushing games in 1950, including a career-best 184 yards in the season opener against Oregon State (24 attempts). Grandelius also led the team in scoring with 72 points as a senior, including 11 rushing touchdowns and one TD reception. The Muskegon Heights, Mich., native earned team MVP honors in 1950 along with first-team All-America recognition from the AP, International News Service and Central Press.

As a junior, Grandelius ranked second on the team in rushing with 502 yards on 90 carries (5.6 avg.).

He finished his career with 1,692 rushing yards and 19 rushing TDs. Grandelius posted seven career 100-yard games and his 6.09 yards per carry rank as the fifth-best rushing average in school history (tied with current Spartan Javon Ringer).

Grandelius earned MVP honors in the 1951 Hula Bowl and also participated in the 1951 East-West Shrine Game. He was selected by the New York Giants in the third round of the 1951 National Football League Draft.

Following the 1953 season, he began a five-year stint as an assistant coach at Michigan State (1954-58) under Duffy Daugherty. At the age of 29, Grandelius was named head coach at Colorado where he compiled a 20-11 worksheet in three seasons (1959-61), winning the Big Eight Conference championship with a perfect 7-0 record in 1961.

He later coached in the NFL ranks with the Philadelphia Eagles (1962-63) and Detroit Lions (1964). From 1965-67, Grandelius was paired with Van Patrick on CBS for the Lions’ telecasts. In 1974, he served as general manager of the World Football League’s Detroit Wheels.

He was inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

Grandelius is survived by his wife Marty; daughters, Tamara and Kristin; and sons, Joel and Steven.

Public visitation is scheduled for Tuesday, April 29 from 3-8 p.m. at A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home (32515 Woodward Ave./248-549-0500) in Royal Oak, Mich. The memorial service will be conducted at the funeral home on Wednesday, April 30 at 11 a.m.

Remembering Everett “Sonny” Grandelius . . .

Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon:

“Sonny Grandelius’ name will forever live in Spartan lore as a pioneering record-setter and hall of famer whose influence extended far beyond his years on campus.”

Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio:

“The Michigan State football family will sorely miss Sonny Grandelius. I’m quite familiar with the contributions he made to the Michigan State football program, both as an All-America back and as an assistant coach. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the entire Grandelius family.”

Former Michigan State teammate Lynn Chandnois (halfback, 1946-49):

“I began following Sonny Grandelius when he was a high school star at Muskegon Heights. He was simply a good ballplayer. Sonny wasn’t the fastest back, but he always picked up the tough yards when we needed them.

“More than anything, I remember Sonny as a gentleman and a family man. He’s truly one of the nicest guys I ever met.”

Former Michigan State teammate Don McAuliffe (halfback, 1950-52):

“Sonny Grandelius was a stud football player. He played with a high motor and loved to run over people. Sonny was the ultimate team player. He was a great teammate, and he’ll be deeply missed. I can’t say enough of good things about Sonny.”


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