Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 30 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 29 Those sorts of exchanges became price- less for those looking on, and for Schem- bechler himself. "Bo got a great kick out of him when he was a boy," Thornbladh recalled. "He would call him 'Bo.' He was unafraid to address him. Most of the kids shied away from Bo, because they might incur his wrath or get in his way. "But Jimmy was unafraid of him and called him 'Bo.' He was unafraid to ap- proach him, and Bo got a great kick out of him and enjoyed him, because of that. He laughed heartily, being addressed that way by a young boy. "Jim always had some degree of self-con- fidence, and it continues to be evidenced. He's always been like that." Jack Harbaugh noticed the beginnings of a relationship that would fully blossom into quarterback and head coach many years later. "Bo loved kids," the elder Harbaugh stressed. "A recruit would come into the room who had a younger brother, and he would tap him in the chest and kid with him. He really related to kids. "But he liked people who would give it back. He would give it to them a little bit, and he enjoyed someone who would re- spond to that, and Jim did. It was, 'How you doin' Jim?' 'Well, how you doin', Bo?' He'd look him right in the eye, and Bo would look over and wink, as if to say, 'I like this.'" Schembechler looked him right in the eye years later and screamed that the young quarterback would never play a down at Michigan. Harbaugh never backed away from that challenge, either. Michigan In His Blood Those formative years proved transforma- tive in the younger Harbaugh's case. The ex- posure to players and coaches, to Michigan football, stayed with him long after he left the scene. "The players took pleasure in teasing them," Jack Harbaugh noted of his boys. "They taped them to the goal posts at times or stuffed them into a locker. They taped John's hands to the bench press bar. We had to come and cut the tape off and take him home for dinner." Sometimes, dinner featured a player, or two, or three. On Thursday nights in those days, position coaches hosted a few of their athletes in their own homes. It might be a Don Dufek, or a Dave Brown, or one of the many standout defen- sive backs coming through Michigan at the time. To the Harbaugh kids, they were more than faceless pass defenders on Saturday afternoons. "We'd have a meal, watch a little televi- sion, and they would wrestle on the floor, and tell stories about their high school career and how they got recruited," Jack Harbaugh noted. "I think a lot had to do with them listen- ing to those stories, and seeing those guys not just as gladiators in padded uniforms, but as students, as athletes, guys who went through junior high and high school and had the opportunity to come to the University of Michigan." From St. Francis Elementary, to Tappan Middle School, to Pioneer High School, Har- baugh grew up living and breathing Michi- gan football. His dad's job took him away from it in 1980, when the family moved west so Jack could coach at Stanford. But after finishing up a strong high school career at Palo Alto High, Harbaugh headed back to Ann Arbor when Schembechler beckoned. The life of a coach often isn't a forgiv- ing one, in terms of one's own children. Even though the Harbaughs moved back to Michigan then (Jack becoming head coach at Western Michigan University), proximity meant little when it came to football Satur- days. The elder Harbaugh saw Jim play one game at Michigan — a 26-24 win at Ohio State in Jim's senior year. Jackie handled the running and the rooting, attending Jim's games at Michigan and John's at Miami (Ohio). Harbaugh, of course, became a Michigan legend in those days, despite Schembechler's thunderous warnings to the contrary. He led the nation in pass efficiency in 1985, direct- ing the Wolverines back from that miserable 6-6 campaign to a 10-1-1 mark, a win over Tom Osborne's Nebraska team in the Fiesta Bowl and a No. 2 national ranking. Harbaugh threw for 5,449 yards and 31 touchdowns in his Michigan career, and he led the Wol- verines to a combined 21-3-1 record over the 1985 and 1986 seasons. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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