Harbaugh receives warm welcome at Indianapolis camp

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

Maybe it had to do with the “Go Blue” banner that welcomed Harbaugh and his staff at the Bishop Chatard Elite Sports Camps, the sunny skies and warm weather, or because his youngest son, Jack, wanted to go with him on the trip.

It also had to do with the fact Harbaugh took a picture with each of the 140 football players who attended the Wednesday morning camp, the second of at least 40 stops in Michigan’s month-long camp tour extravaganza that will venture into 21 states as well as Australia and American Samoa. The tour started Tuesday night at the North Central College Football Camp in Naperville, Ill.

The Indianapolis event marked the first of three camps for Michigan on the day, with Harbaugh and a heavy contingent of his staff headed east to Springfield (Ohio) High for an evening camp while other UM coaches were in American Samoa.

“It was so good, so fun. I remember talking after last year’s (camp tour) this is the most fun I’ve had in, I can’t remember when I had this much fun,” Harbaugh said after the camp wrapped up. “Getting to do it even more is a great privilege, blessing. It’s an honor to be doing it.

“Connecting with a big part of the football world — as I see it anyway — and I think the youngsters learned some things. One, two, three, four good things they can take away from. So it was very productive, healthy start and onward.”

Harbaugh began the three-hour program, which started at 9 a.m. and included cheerleading, lacrosse and volleyball, by encouraging all the campers to attack the event with “enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

He laid out several ground rules for the camp: no injuries, make a new ally, leave the event with more confidence and have an “attitude for gratitude.”

“You’re somebody’s pride and joy, their whole world. Just have a little gratitude for that,” said Harbaugh, who wore his usual Michigan shirt, Michigan hat, khakis and black cleats. “Maybe when you leave here today, thank them or thank somebody for being alive, being here, whatever it is.

“Do your best, that’s all anybody asks and that’s all anybody expects. That would make your parents very proud. Go out and give it your best and take something away from today.”

Former NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck appeared as a special guest lecturer and followed Harbaugh’s opening remarks with his own words of wisdom.

“My advice to you guys is you’re going to fail but keep doing the best that you can do,” said Hasselbeck, who retired in March after 18 seasons. “Listen to your coaches, take what they tell you to heart and work at it.

“You don’t know what your path is going to be. I didn’t know what my path was going to be but by the grace of God, opportunities came my way and things worked out.”

After taking photos, Harbaugh roamed the field and shouted words of encouragement as position groups rotated from station to station for different drills.

He gave pointers to wide receivers on juking a defender, celebrated with quarterbacks during a throwing competition, and even lined up at defensive back and threw footballs for a couple of drills.

“Real football faces and guys with football hearts,” Harbaugh said about what stood out. “They worked good, listened good. It was a real pleasure to be out here. It was a lot of fun. Really good football here in Indy, it was impressive.”

Midway through the camp, Harbaugh swapped his Michigan shirt for a No. 12 Andrew Luck jersey, the current Colts quarterback who Harbaugh coached at Stanford. Shortly after, Harbaugh found a few moments to play catch with Jack.

In addition to Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Don Brown, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, quarterbacks/receivers coach Jedd Fisch, defensive line coach Greg Mattison and running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley were on hand.

For Emil Ekiyor, a 2018 four-star offensive guard from Indianapolis Cathedral, that meant getting a chance to work with Drevno.

“It was good to learn from coach Drevno and pick his mind on some things I can take back to my high school season,” said Ekiyor, who was offered by Michigan as a freshman.

Ekiyor’s teammate Hugh Davis, an outside linebacker, holds offers from Central Michigan and Indiana but hasn’t garnered any interest from Michigan. He viewed the camp as an opportunity to showcase his skills.

“I thought it was great. I loved working with Coach Brown,” Davis said. “He’s a very good coach, very old-school but at the same time, he knows how to have fun and I just really like what he taught me. It was fun working hard in front of these coaches.”

Davis said the event also helped changed his opinion of Michigan.

“It really showed me that this coaching staff, they really care and they really want greatness,” Davis said. “They’re going to be winners.”

Yet Harbaugh and satellite camps continue to draw ire from other college coaches, most recently from Alabama’s Nick Saban. During the Southeastern Conference spring meetings on Tuesday, Saban compared the camps to the “wild, wild west” because there’s “no specific guidelines to how we’re managing and controlling this stuff.”

Harbaugh, Saban trade barbs on satellite camps

That drew Harbaugh to tweet his amazement Tuesday night, stating “Alabama broke NCAA rules & now their HC is lecturing us on the possibility of rules being broken at camps. Truly ‘amazing.’”

Saban and Harbaugh both doubled down on their stances on Wednesday. Saban told ESPN.com he doesn’t “really care what (Harbaugh) thinks or tweets” while Harbaugh called Saban’s comments from Tuesday “hypocritical.”

“I was amazed, were you? Were you not amazed at that?” Harbaugh said. “How could you not find that amazing?”

While Harbaugh likely won’t cross paths with Saban during Michigan’s camp tour, he’ll soon be working southern camps with Hugh Freeze of Mississippi and Georgia’s Kirby Smart, two coaches who have openly criticized Harbaugh and his use of satellite camps.

“I’m glad that they’ve come around and I’m looking forward to it,” Harbaugh said. “I look forward to connecting to as much of the football world as much as humanly possible.

“Being around other coaches — high school coaches, grade school coaches, college coaches, pro coaches — it doesn’t get any better than that. That’s really connecting to all the coaches and we’re going to connect with a lot of the people that are in football, so I’m looking forward to it.”


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins

Michigan’s 2016 satellite camps

Thursday: Cedar Grove High (at Maynard Jackson High), Atlanta.

Thursday: Elite Prospect Camp, Leesburg (Ga.) High

Friday: Trinity Christian Academy, Jacksonville, Fla.

Friday: St. Thomas Aquinas, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Friday: Heatherbrae Reserve, Melbourne, Australia

Friday: Nova Southeastern Univ. Elite Prep Sports, Ft. Lauderdale.

Saturday: Cheshire (Conn.) Academy

Saturday:– University of South Florida, Tampa.

Saturday: Coaching clinic, Norfolk, Va.

Sunday: Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va.

Sunday: Lauren’s First and Goal, Lafayette College, Easton, Pa.

Monday: St. Francis Academy, Baltimore.

June 7: South Alabama, Mobile.

June 7: Hun School, Princeton, N.J.

June 8: Pearl High, Pearl, Miss.

June 8: Raw Talent U camp, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

June 8: Paramus (N.J.) Catholic

June 9: Warren (Ohio) Harding High

June 9: Fairfield (Ohio) High.

June 9-10: Sound Mind Sound Body, Detroit (Wayne State)

June 12: Baylor University, Waco, Texas

June 12: Empire Showcase, Norco, Calif.

June 13: North Shore Stadium, Houston

June 14: Greenhill High, Addison, Texas (near Dallas)

June 14: Oakland High, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

June 15: Pittsburg (Kansas) State.

June 15: Blue Springs South High, Kansas City, Mo.

June 17: Ridge View High, Columbia, S.C.

June 17-18: Pride camp, Orem, Utah.

June 17-22: Michigan hosts camps in Ann Arbor

June 22: Chaparral High, Las Vegas.

June 23: Antioch (Calif.) High

June 23: Inderkum High, Sacramento, Calif.

June 24: Oceanside High, San Diego

June 25: Hawkins High, Los Angeles

June 26: St. Louis School, Honolulu

June 28: American Samoa