Harbaugh: Visiting graves of UM legends 'powerful' experience

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Bo Schembechler instructs Jim Harbaugh in the 1987 Rose Bowl.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, making his weekly radio appearance, shared more of his feelings about an emotional walk through Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor Tuesday night, visiting the graves of legendary Michigan football coaches Fielding H. Yost and Bo Schembechler, and longtime radio broadcaster Bob Ufer.

The cemetery walk organized by Michigan alum Jeffrey Holzhausen in 1997 has become a tradition the Tuesday night before the annual Michigan-Ohio State game, which is Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

Harbaugh told the "Stoney and Bill Show" on 97.1 Wednesday that he was told about the walk by Chris Anson, the son of good friend Todd Anson, and joined the estimated 200 fans who made the journey Tuesday night.

"What a special, moving experience. Powerful," Harbaugh said on the show. "If you ever have a chance to participate, I would definitely encourage you. It was a tremendous walk. The best part was you're with all these people that feel the same emotions you do, the same deep, abiding respect for the University of Michigan, first and foremost, and for the men who were such an impact on the program and all of our lives.

"Just a tremendous feeling of being at Fielding Harris Yost's grave site. That was the architect. He was the man with the master plan, who coined the phrase, 'This Michigan of ours.' They say he's on the highest ground of Ann Arbor. I don't know if that's true or not, but when you're standing there in the cemetery it is the highest point in the cemetery. And you look around Ann Arbor, and you go, 'Wow, this may be the highest point. This is the high ground.' But he really had the vision.

Harbaugh busts buckeye in Bo's memory

"And Bob Ufer's grave is within 10 feet, right across from Fielding H. Yost, and Bob Ufer, the man with the enthusiasm. People look at me sometimes and go, 'Where do you get all this enthusiasm every single day?' I go, 'It came from Bob Ufer.' As a youngster, as a child listening to Michigan football games, nobody had more enthusiasm than Bob Ufer.

"And then Coach Schembechler's gravesite. It was almost a decade ago, nine years ago, that I was standing there at coach's funeral, and you realize how much one man can, outside of my family, outside of my father, (affect you, and) that would be my coach, who really brought the intensity. Had the patience, some people called it the stubbornness, to stick to the plan and to have a plan and carry it out with an intensity and an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. That was Bo Schembechler.

"So it was great, the best part was being with all those others who were there sharing that together last night."

The group first stopped at Schembechler's grave where Holzhausen made a moving tribute, before Jim Harbaugh and then his father, Jack, spoke. Then, a blue block was placed in front of Schembechler's grave, Harbaugh was handed a yellow-handle hammer, and he smashed a buckeye.

Other highlights from the show:

Harbaugh on the victory over Penn State: “It was a signature win for our team, so very proud of them. And so many of our guys contributed to that win, probably the most amount of players contributing (this season). It was a great locker room celebration, great thrill of victory. And the quarterback (Jake Rudock), tough as nails and a godsend to our football team and so happy the way he’s playing.”

On whether he punishes players for false starts and other mental mistakes like running more laps: “Well, yes, sometimes when you screw up, but I’ll tell you, the way both the offensive line and the defensive line played, we were like, how can you be mad at them? They made up for it. They absolved their sins. ... I thought the offensive line, the defensive line played their best game of the season. Our defensive line, probably the key to the game was the pressure they put on the Penn State quarterback. That really took its toll throughout the game. After the game, are you upset about some procedure penalties and some offsides? Yes, OK, let’s get them fixed. But, man, I’ve got to make the sign of the cross over here and absolve you of those sins because of the good works that were done.”

On Jourdan Lewis’ 55-yard kickoff return: “He’s competing like a maniac throughout the entire kickoff return. And again, Noah Furbush, you put on the film the next day and he blocked seven guys on that kickoff return, seven different individuals. The most unbelievable effort I’ve ever seen on a kickoff return by one man.”

On the 1973 Michigan-Ohio State game, the first he watched in person: “They tore down the banner. They came out and tore down the banner before the game. You could see coach (Woody) Hayes give them a little point to go tear down the banner. In ’75 and ’77 we defended the banner. I remember Bo had a plan; the Michigan players came back and defended the banner."

On how good is Ohio State? “Some people are wondering which way is it going to go with the Buckeyes. I’m pretty confident they will come out with a great intensity and a great fire. I was looking through some of my notes and went back to the preseason All-Big Ten -- they must have 10 players on each side of the ball on that preseason Big Ten list. Great talent, great program, tremendous coaches. A remarkable program when you look at what they’ve done in terms of winning with numbing repetition. It’s a great task for our football team; we’re preparing for it now and we’re excited."

On his favorite Thanksgiving dish: “Steak. That’s my favorite. We’re flipping the switch, we’re going with steak. And then creamed corn. If we can get some creamed corn, that would be just one heck of a deal on some mashed potatoes. And stuffing with some sausage in it.”