Harbaugh watches James Earl Jones do voice-over for UM

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was in awe watching legendary actor James Earl Jones tape the voice-over for the new Michigan football video that appeared on the videoboard at Michigan Stadium before last Saturday’s home opener.

Harbaugh, appearing Thursday for his weekly segment on the “Stoney and Bill Show” on 97.1, said he and his wife, Sarah, during a trip to New York, watched Jones, a Michigan alumnus, read the script for the video. The video opens with Jones’ legendary baritone voice saying: “This is the University of Michigan … where we respect integrity and honor excellence,” while a variety of clips from U-M flash across the screen. “We are the best university in the world.”

The idea to have Jones voice the script was hatched by Harbaugh’s father, Jack Harbaugh. One day in the spring while they, along with Jay Harbaugh, Jim’s son and Michigan tight ends coach, tossed around names of potential prospects.

“After we wrote the script, we were thinking of different people,” Harbaugh said on the show Thursday. “My dad goes, ‘How about James Earl Jones?’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah.’ How can it get any better than that? It does not get any better than that.”

Harbaugh said speaking to Jones to arrange the voice-over work was “amazing.” And then there was the heart-stopping visit to the New York studio.

“It was an amazing experience to watch Mr. James Earl Jones do the voice-over piece,” Harbaugh said. “It must have been what it was like to watch Willie Mays taking batting practice back in that time. I would have loved to watch Willie Mays take batting practice. I know what that must have looked like watching James Earl Jones do the voice-over for this piece.”

Harbaugh was asked if he asked Jones to say anything like his character Darth Vader, but Harbaugh made clear he was there simply to observe greatness. He swelled with pride because Jones said he loved reading the words that Jack Harbaugh made famous in the Harbaugh household – attack (each day) with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

“You’re just kind of there,” Harbaugh said. “You don’t want to say anything. You’re just trying to be quiet. You’re watching somebody great at what they do, do what they do. It’s an amazing feeling.

“He did say, ‘We will attack with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind’ (and) he said that was the best read in the entire piece. That’s from Jack Harbaugh. I’ve heard that from my first memory being four, five years old. To hear him read it and say that was the best read in the piece — that was filled with a lot of pride and a good feeling to hear him read that.”

Show host Mike Stone asked Harbaugh what is next, having Madonna, who attended Michigan and whose daughter, Lourdes, is attending, sing “The Victors”?

“Absolutely,” Harbaugh said.