John Michelosen (February 13, 1916 – October 20, 1982) was a highly successful American football coach with both college and professional teams, and an inductee into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
A native of the Pittsburgh suburb of Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Michelosen graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and joined the Panthers coaching staff in the 1940s before making NFL history in 1948 as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and coaching in the NFL until 1951. He made his biggest impact as the head coach of the Pitt Panthers in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1948 he became the youngest ever head coach of any NFL team in the league's "modern era" (loosely defined as since 1946) when he took command of the Steelers. At the age of 32 years and 2 months he would remain the youngest head coach in NFL history until 1962 when Harland Svare would beat him out by 4 months in mid-season. Michelosen held on to the distinction of being the youngest coach ever to start an NFL season until the Oakland Raiders hired Lane Kiffin in 2007.
His tenure as Steelers head coach lasted until 1951 and he compiled a 20-26-2 record. In 1949 Michelosen guided the Steelers to a 2nd place finish in their conference, however at the time only conference champions (based on regular season records) were allowed playoff berths.
Michelosen got his start in football by playing quarterback at Ambridge High School, under legendary coach Maurice "Moe" Rubenstein. As quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh, he played for yet another legendary coach, Jock Sutherland. Michelosen played on Pitt's National Championship teams in 1936 and 1937.
In 1955, Michelosen returned to Pitt after coaching the Steelers and served as head football coach for another 11 seasons until after the 1965 campaign. In that time he led Pitt to back-to-back major bowl games in the 1950s and became the best team ever not to make a bowl after a 9-1 1963 season which saw national-title contender Pitt excluded from a major bowl due to the assassination of President Kennedy in the fall of that year. Overall he put together a 56-49-7 over 11 seasons, with only 4 losing campaigns. Pitt was ranked as high as #3 in the nation during the height of his coaching career and was ranked among the top ten programs 6 seasons and the top 25 for 7 seasons with Michelosen at the helm.
Besides coaching the best collegiate team to miss a bowl championship, Michelosen also was the major coaching influence on such modern day NFL greats as Mike Ditka and Marty Schottenheimer both of whom were born and raised near Pittsburgh and developed into football minds and talents playing for Pitt in the 1950s. Michelosen also has a place in the civil rights history of the country, guiding the first team to break the color barrier in the southern bowls. In the 1956 Sugar Bowl Pitt became the first sports team ever to field an African American player in the deep south.
Michelosen was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1970.