Harbaugh recruiting and 'living that dream' as UM coach

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
View Comments

Lansing — New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh looked down at the block M on his shirt and emphasized how good it feels to wear maize and blue again.

Harbaugh, officially introduced as the Wolverines new coach Dec. 30, spoke Friday morning at the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association clinic. He has hired his staff and embarked on recruiting after the dark period lifted Thursday.

"Special," he said emphatically when asked what it feels like to wear the Block M again. "It's a special thing to me. I grew up in Ann Arbor, came back to Ann Arbor as a recruited athlete and always had the dream of being a football coach at the University of Michigan because my dad coached here for seven years, so I dreamed about it.

"Now I'm living that dream, and it's very special."

Harbaugh coached the San Francisco 49ers for four seasons and national football observers believed he would never leave the NFL for a college job. He was asked Friday if Michigan was the only program for which he'd leave professional football.

"Probably," Harbaugh said with a broad smile. "It was a decision that was made from the heart. I haven't had a bad day since being on the job and now being able to get out and make relationships, recruit and visit with people I've known for a very long time. It's another great day to be a Michigan Wolverine."

He said he has been consumed these first few weeks getting pieces into place.

"It's been hiring a staff, it's been connecting with people that I knew 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, it's been being in a three-point stance waiting for the dead period to get over so we could get out and start connecting to high school coaches and recruits," Harbaugh said. "That's what we were able to do (Thursday). We got out to some real great places, high schools in the Michigan area and today to be at the clinic is something I've been anticipating and looking forward to."

Michigan will host recruits this weekend, but time is limited for Harbaugh and his staff before the first day of the signing period next month.

"Youngsters, if they have time to make the right decision and investigate that right decision, if you have time to do that, then that's what we want to be involved in," he said. "We're going to have on-campus visits, we're going to send our coaches out to form relationships and talk to youngsters about the University of Michigan. The goal is to be productive."

Harbaugh was asked if recruiting a quarterback — or looking for a graduate transfer — is a priority. Michigan returns Shane Morris, who will be a junior and is the only quarterback with game experience, redshirt freshman Wilton Speight and freshman Alex Malzone, already enrolled at Michgian.

"We're looking at all options," Harbaugh said. "We're not allowed to talk about any specifics. We're looking for great student-athletes, the best of the best in terms of education opportunities and in terms of better, best fit for the University of Michigan. We're scouring to find that, really competing to bring in the best to our university."

Certainly, the Michigan football facilities have been upgraded since Harbaugh played in the mid-80s, and they help make UM an easier sell in recruiting.

"Coming to Michigan is an easy selling point for just about anybody, and I think especially for me personally, because I believe in it," he said. "I believe in it — it's great from top to bottom, so it has been easy for me because I believe in it so much."

Harbaugh has hired his staff, including Tim Drevno as offensive coordinator and D.J. Durkin as defensive coordinator. Former Wolverine running back Tyrone Wheatley is coaching that position at Michigan.

"Thrilled, thrilled with the coaching staff we've been able to assemble," Harbaugh said. "To have a team of coaches that we stand shoulder to shoulder and take on whatever comes at you, that's a great feeling. I feel very good about this coaching staff."

The staff also includes his son, Jay Harbaugh, who worked for his uncle, John Harbaugh, coach of the Baltimore Ravens, the last three seasons as a quality control coach. Harbaugh had asked his son to join him on previous staffs. Jay Harbaugh will coach tight ends.

"My brother was disappointed," Harbaugh said. "It's great for me, I think it's great for Jay, I think it's great for the University of Michigan, (but) my brother John was disappointed — I could hear it in his voice."

Harbaugh believes football is under attack nationally, mainly because of concussion issues, so his message to the high school coaches on Friday is that they must continue to teach the game and develop its future.

He was asked what it's like to give back to football.

"Give back? I'm getting," Harbaugh said. "I love coaches. I love being around coaches. My dad coached for 43 years, his friends when we were growing up were all coaches, I played for many coaches. They're teachers, I respect them and I love being around them, and they're ambassadors for the game of football.

"The game of football in a lot of ways is being stressed right now. In my opinion, in my lifelong devotion to the game of football, I think the message is how great football is, and how great it's been to be a part of. It's been a lifework for me. As a coach, these are all the ambassadors of the game, and I want to spread that."



View Comments