Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 32 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 31 ability is to raise people up. Whether it's a player he's coaching, whether it's a coach … Tim Drevno was on that staff, and now Tim is on his staff at the University of Michigan. "Not a kid was receiving a nickel to play football there. They were there just for the love of the game. With his love and passion for the game, they bought in." Among them happened to be Mike Gas- person, who eventually played wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL, coached at the time by John Harbaugh. But whether they went on in football or not, Jack Harbaugh stressed, those who stayed expe- rienced a difference. "He will challenge you," Jack Harbaugh underscored. "He will inspire you. He's an example for you. He will get out and demon- strate something. You watch and you see this energy, this enthusiasm, this love and this passion. It's not somebody standing up and reading off a piece of paper or a power-point presentation. "The first time you see him in the morning until the last time you see him in the evening, he is just a living example of what his expec- tations are. Not everyone buys in. There are some who say, 'This just isn't for me.'" Moving On Up It was for Stanford, which finished 1-11 in 2006 and looked for all the world like a moribund program. They brought in Har- baugh and hoped for the best. "There were those that questioned whether Stanford would ever be relevant again in football, because of their stance on academ- ics," Jack Harbaugh pointed out. "He walked into the room the first day, and he told the players: 'The first thing we're going to do here at Stanford is, we are going to recruit. We're going to recruit the finest athletes we can possibly recruit.' "All the players looked at that as, 'He's throwing us out the door. He's going to clean the cabinets and we're gone. He's going out to recruit.'" Not so, they quickly discovered. The elder Harbaugh continued: "He turned around and said, 'And that recruiting job is going to start right here, within these four walls. We're going to recruit you like no one has ever recruited you, to be a part of a Stanford program that's going to be successful.' "Richard Sherman was in that room. Toby Gerhart was in that room. Some coaches think, 'If you're here and you're 1-11, we need to get rid of you and recruit someone else.' But he didn't look at it that way." Gerhart, the future All-American and Heisman runner-up at running back, and Sherman, the Seattle Seahawk considered by many to be the best cornerback in the NFL, were two of many who experienced the turn- around. It didn't happen instantaneously, the Cardinal posting 4-8 and 5-7 records those first two seasons. Even then, Harbaugh got in the grill of the status quo, knocking off Pac-10 top dog USC and Pete Carroll in their first meet- ing. Stanford's 24-23 upset of the 41-point- favorite Trojans is ranked by many as the top upset of all time in college football. It remains the biggest pregame point spread ever overcome in the history of Division-I football. The Cardinal pulled it off with a redshirt sophomore quarterback, Tavita Pritchard, making his first career start. USC had won 24 consecutive games at home, and this looked like a giftwrapped No. 25, especially with Stanford's top QB sidelined by a sei- zure earlier in the week. That's not how Harbaugh thinks, of course. He expects to win, and refused to get caught up in the giddiness of his players, even after the unfathomable upset. Instead, he used it as a teaching moment, instructing the Cardinal players that it's what they should come to expect. "I give all the credit to the Stanford foot- ball players," Harbaugh said at the time. "They played like their lives depended on it. They played smart; they played sound. They just won it." He also didn't miss the opportunity to deliver his message of defiance, one that ap- pears to be a recurring theme. "We bow to no man," Harbaugh said. "We bow to no program at Stanford University." He'd given his team reason to believe, and before long, everybody joined in. In 2010, Stanford went 12-1, beating Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, 40-12. The Cardinal wound up No. 5 in the na- tion, and Harbaugh finished as the No. 1 coach in the country, according to the Touch- down Club of Columbus. They bestowed on him their Woody Hayes Award, although it likely didn't come with a guarantee. Then it was on to San Francisco and an- other dramatic turnaround. The 49ers went from eight consecutive seasons of non-win- ning campaigns to records of 13-3, 11-4-1 and 12-4 the first three years with Harbaugh at the helm. All three featured appearances in the NFC Championship Game, and 2012 pitted Jim Harbaugh's 49ers against John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl. The proud papa in that unprecedented situation acknowledged the spotlight proved brighter, but … "We shared that moment thousands of times in our family situation," Jack Har- baugh noted. The sons are able to kid about the after- math of that Ravens' championship now, with Jim keeping John at arm's length via an elbow-locked handshake. Had the younger brother been able to request another quarter, he'd likely have done so. John Harbaugh bore witness to the never- quit side of his younger brother many times. There was the time the two had just enough time for a nine-hole round of golf before the families gathered for dinner. "Jim is a good golfer," John noted. "He's been a four or five handicapper in the past, and I'm not a good golfer. But I'm playing well that day, and I beat him by a hole. "He's like, 'We've got a little more time still, so why don't we just play a couple more holes?' I say, 'Okay, we can play a couple more holes.' He congratulated me. "So we play a couple more holes, and I par the first hole. He hits one within two feet, second shot, over a lake, and ends up birdying the hole. The next one, I get a birdie, but he gets an eagle. "He had two great holes, but those were the two extra holes, as I reminded him. He claims now that he won, by one stroke. I say, 'There are no 11-hole golf matches. They don't have those in golf.' "So … I won the last time we played." The Harbaugh Effect Jim Harbaugh's competitive modus ope- randi involves such a statement remaining rare. His eventual falling out with the 49ers front office, and subsequent return to Michi- gan, provided an instantaneous blowtorch to Harbaugh led Stanford to a 29-21 record in his four years at the helm (2007-10), including a 12-1 mark in his fi nal season. PHOTO COURTESY STANFORDPHOTO.COM

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