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Harbaugh dreams of new season: 'It's time to compete'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

Ann Arbor – About this time every year, ever since he was a kid, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has had what he calls a "football dream."

The scenario is always the same – it is the final drive of a game, and Harbaugh, the former Michigan and NFL quarterback, is playing. He never sees how the game concludes, though, and always wakes before a resolution.

Amateur psychologists might have a field day with this, but for Harbaugh the dream it is part of his preseason routine, an internal signal that the season is about to start.

Harbaugh, fresh off a summer that included a headline-sparking satellite camp tour and a tweet-filled trip to France with his wife, is about to begin his first preseason camp as Michigan's head coach. He met with beat writers on Tuesday in advance of the Big Ten football kickoff in Chicago and said that while he is beginning a new chapter as coach of his alma mater, the preseason vibe is always the same.

"There's a kind of a battle rhythm or a body clock or something that just tells you it's time to play football," Harbaugh said. "For me, I know when I get my first football dream, it's my body clock telling me it's time to compete. It's like a bell in a boxing match -- ding, ding, ding, ding, ding -- or the bugler's call at a Kentucky Derby. So I've had that dream."

He said he always wakes before the final drive.

"And I'm always playing in my football dream. Never coaching in my football dream," Harbaugh said. "At the end there's always a final drive that I'm trotting out for, and I always wake up for some reason. I'm waiting for that dream to finish and see how it plays out. Sometimes it's different, like we're ahead, sometimes we're behind, sometimes the score is different and things happen different to get to that point.

"(There's) the smell and the feel of running out into the huddle to start the final drive. There's different ways I've gotten there. Sometimes I've started the game, sometimes I come in as the backup. Sometimes I'm young, sometimes I'm, like, 50, and they signed me just to play that game."

The dream makes perfect sense to Harbaugh.

"I've had these from the time I was 9 years old," he said. "(I've been) waiting for my first football dream to come, a month, three weeks before the camp. They've started coming."

Harbaugh hasn't slowed since he was announced as head coach at the end of last year. He made headlines this summer with an extensive road trip to high school camps around the country, some in the backyard of Southeastern Conference programs that have a rule in place restricting those coaches from participating in camps farther than 50 miles from their campuses.

While SEC coaches publicly complained, Harbaugh and his staff worked camps.

"The camps this summer were more fun than I can remember having in a long, long time from all aspects," Harbaugh said. "Being around the youngsters, being around our staff and coaches, just the way we connected with each other. It was more fun than I've had in a long, long time."

He recently took his wife, Sarah, to Paris, sans children, and he frequently posted photos on Twitter. In one, he was standing in a street throwing a football. The receiver was a young boy, who had been throwing with his father. Ironically, they are from the Bay Area, and Harbaugh's last coaching stop was four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

"I was just walking by and he was throwing a football with his dad and I just kind of jumped up and got in the game with them," Harbaugh said. "It was a spontaneous game of catch. Playing catch right there on the street was very cool."

Harbaugh enjoyed his vacation.

"I liked Paris. I liked a lot of things about it.," Harbaugh said. "I was in a little period where I was learning from the Parisians. They kind of talk softer, slower and not quite as aggressive, so this is the new me. Hope you like it."

He began laughing, like he had just awakened and realized that a French-inspired personality makeover was, well, just a dream.