Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 29 of 163

28 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW Bob Thornbladh said. "That be- came Bo's worst season, when we lost him. It was hard. It was hard on all of us." Without wanting to denigrate any of the efforts involved, noted former Michigan All-American and present radio color commentator Dan Dierdorf insisted the recent past has been hard as well. "This stretch, these last seven years, has been humbling, excruci- atingly painful," Dierdorf said. "It's been awful. "We were desperate. At the be- ginning of the HBO special [on Harbaugh], I said we were starv- ing for a return to legitimacy. We so want to just become Michigan again." Dierdorf insists that can happen under Harbaugh. Michigan fans apparently believe as well, evi- denced by the almost immediate selling out of stadium skyboxes after Harbaugh's signing was an- nounced. A season ticket waiting list that had dwin- dled to nothing suddenly sprang back to life. Harbaugh has done nothing to stiff-arm that anticipation, even though he's restricted his "enthusiasm unknown to mankind" to efforts largely away from interview situations. At this rate, he doesn't have to say much at all. "I've never been around anything where the enthusiasm just instantly pegged," Di- erdorf insisted. "The needle went over and almost snapped off. "I was sitting and watching ESPN, prob- ably a week or two before the signing. Jim is still the coach of the 49ers. The guys were sitting around talking about the possibility of Harbaugh going to Michigan. One of the guys made a great point. "He said, 'If he ends up at Michigan, you've got to understand something. This is a guy that has been on SportsCenter every day now for a month. This is a guy who, if he signs at Michigan, he is going to be sitting in a kid's living room trying to recruit him, and the kid isn't just going to be looking at the football coach at the University of Michigan. That kid is going to be looking at a star. This guy is a legitimate star that shines supremely brightly in the world of sports.' "Money can't buy that. That's what Jim Harbaugh is. It's kind of hard to quantify exactly what it means to the faithful." "Jim Harbaugh is going to be successful here," Thornbladh assured. "He's been suc- cessful at everything he's ever undertaken in his life. Failure is not even a consideration. It's nothing he even thinks about." Driven In Every Aspect Harbaugh thinks about winning. He al- ways has, regardless of the competition or setting. Whatever the genesis of his inner dynamo, it's undeniable. Michigan's new football boss drew laugh- ter at his opening press conference when he said to someone who asked about his per- sonality: "I feel like it's the only personality I have. The other ones were all taken. So I got this one." J.T. Rogan, Harbaugh's best running back at San Diego, recalled the coach calling for a touchdown pass late in the game when already up 15. That can tend to rub the op- position the wrong way, but Rogan came to understand. "I remember losing 61-18 or something like that to Penn in his first year, and the Penn coach told him, 'It's not my job to stop our team, it's yours — recruit better play- ers,'" Rogan told M-Live. "That stuck with him. And he's still of the mindset that you've got to go out there and win, always compete. Less is not more. More is more." Jack Harbaugh watched it all develop, from backyard games to youth football to Michigan to the pros, and right on up to a Super Bowl loss when his youngest son de- clared to the oldest, "There will be no hug," in the postgame handshake. "It's a love, a passion, he has for life," Jack Harbaugh observed. "It's not just foot- ball, but life in general. When I say love and passion, he's totally committed to family, friends, teammates." He's also totally committed to winning, and always has been, his father ac- knowledged, starting with competi- tions against his older brother John, head coach of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. "We had a big evergreen tree out front," noted Jack Harbaugh. "It was taller than the house. They would take this football and try to throw it over the tree. They tried for months, maybe even years, to get it over. They just couldn't get it over. "It was, who was going to get the ball over the tree? They'd throw it, and it would catch in the tree, and then they had to find a way to get it out of the tree. It was throw rocks up into the tree to dislodge the ball, and that meant rocks being thrown off the house." Jim absorbed a few figurative — and sometimes literal — jolts of his own, wanting to run with a brother 15 months his senior. Friends in- volved in the competitions were usually John's and that represented a built-in deficit. "Jim had to catch up with them and try to compete," Jack Harbaugh noted. "Him being the youngest, they didn't always treat him maybe as well as they should have, and he took offense to that." He figured out ways to get even, and even- tually, ahead. But John, Jim, and younger sister Joani — wife of Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean — discovered a whole new world of competition and oppor- tunity coming to Ann Arbor in 1973. That's when Jack and wife Jackie — about whom Jack raves as possessing the real com- petitive spirit of the family — moved from Iowa to Michigan. Schembechler brought the elder Harbaugh on as a defensive backs coach, unknowingly planting the seed for a future Michigan head coach. Jim Harbaugh talks about those years with a sense of wonder — playing football on the Michigan sidelines as an 11-year-old while the Wolverines practiced, watching his hero, Rick Leach, perform at quarterback, and getting to know the legendary head coach. Even then, brashness poured from Michi- gan's future head coach like sweat during a hard workout. "There was a time when I was in Coach Schembechler's office, I was sitting in his chair, and I had my feet up on his desk," Harbaugh recalled. "He walked in and said 'How are you do- ing, Jim?' And I said 'I'm doing great, Bo, how are you doing?' He goes 'What are you doing?' And I said 'I'm sitting in your chair, Coach.' I couldn't think of anything better to say." Harbaugh has gone from being a young fan (above) to starting quar- terback to head coach at U-M. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS

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