Harbaugh brothers share sibling, sideline insights

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
UM coach Jim Harbaugh and Ravens coach John Harbaugh hold court Friday in the Crisler Center.

Ann Arbor — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh spoke for nearly an hour Friday during Michigan's coaching clinic and shared his insights about football, of course, but also several entertaining stories about younger brother, Jim, Michigan's new head coach.

Jim Harbaugh, wearing a sport coat and pants, introduced his brother to the crowd gathered at the Crisler Center — there are approximately 800 coaches attending the two-day clinic — and remarked on his attire. John Harbaugh joked earlier that he was dressed like his brother, with khakis and a Ravens sweatshirt, since Jim's standard sideline apparel is khakis and sweatshirt.

Jim made the introduction calling John his "role model" and said he "beats up on his little brother, not just at the Super Bowl."

That was a reference to the legendary meeting of brothers in the 2013 Super Bowl with John coaching the Ravens and Jim the San Francisco 49ers.

During his animated, vibrant speech to the coaches, John Harbaugh described the postgame handshake with Jim after the Ravens won the Super Bowl. John pulled a coach from the stands and had him play the role of John Harbaugh, while John showed the crowd what Jim did when they approached each other.

"It's a great moment, but I have to get through this first," John Harbaugh said of the handshake. "It's my brother."

John Harbaugh was leaning in for a hug when Jim thrust his right forearm into John's chest.

"He goes, 'There will be NO hug,'" John Harbaugh said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Before the speaking engagement at the clinic, John Harbaugh met with reporters at Schembechler Hall and shared stories that demonstrate his young brother's competitive nature. He attended the Wolverines' four-hour practice on Thursday and saw shades of legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, for whom Jim played and with whom their father, Jack, coached.

"It was a Michigan practice — it was physical, it was demanding," John Harbaugh said. "As Jim told them, they're building calluses. He pulled a classic Bo, he threw everybody out of practice. At one point in time it got crazy, there were so many people visiting, and about halfway through he said, 'Everybody, out of here!'

"I turned around, (former Michigan quarterback) Rick Leach turned around and started to walk away. He said, 'No John, you can stay.' The older (Michigan) players were laughing about it because it was exactly what Bo would have done. As much as anything, it was for his team. He was making a point to his team — this is about football."

Harbaugh referenced the wild speculation about his brother and the Michigan job that was going on in December. Jim Harbaugh was still coaching the 49ers, but rumors were rampant he would leave to coach his alma mater.

"I was busting my dad's chops yesterday because there was a report that came out that the Harbaugh family, was pushing Jim to Michigan," John said, smiling. "I took it personally, 'I'm not pushing Jim anywhere.' I want him to stay in the NFL. But I think dad might have been pushing Jim to Michigan — there might have been a kernel of truth to the story, so he's really excited. My mom Jackie is fired up."

He sees a brother happy with the decision to return to college football to coach Michigan.

"I probably didn't see it either, I thought he would stay in the NFL," he said. "I think he probably was hoping, and I was hoping, it would work out there for the longest time, but it didn't.

"What I see from a happiness standpoint is that he's a coach and a brother who is back to being focused on the things he wants to be focused on, which is the players and the coaches and developing the program to be the best football team they can be. I feel like I've got the greatest job in the world, and I feel like Jim's got the other greatest job in the world."

John Harbaugh told Michigan players Thursday about fights the brothers had, but he was making clear they understand what kind of coach they have.

"My message to the players was, 'You've got a fighter for a coach,'" John Harbaugh said. "No question he can make (the transition to college football) and make it well.

"There's no doubt Michigan is going to win. Obviously the variable is going to be time and how fast they pick it up and how the ball bounces. They've got a bunch of good players out here. There's no question he's going to make the transition perfectly well."

angelique.chengelis@detroitnews.com

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