Harbaugh tells Saline grads: ‘Don’t let anyone outwork you’

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

Saline – As if Jim Harbaugh’s June schedule wasn’t busy enough, he found some time to make another stop.

But this time it didn’t include a satellite camp.

Harbaugh became the latest Michigan football coach to give the commencement speech at Saline High’s graduation on Sunday, joining the likes of Lloyd Carr and Bo Schembechler.

Throughout Harbaugh’s roughly 13-minute speech, he quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson and Winston Churchill, told stories about his youth and quipped one-liners that drew laughter, but most importantly, he shared plenty of life advice.

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“We’re all for you here. Everybody in the stadium today, everybody that lives here in the area and in southeast Michigan, in the state of Michigan is for you, in your corner and wants you to do well,” Harbaugh said in his opening remarks to the 480 Saline graduates. “What’s good for the bee is good for the hive. Let the world know youngsters in Michigan are thriving.”

Harbaugh gave special shout outs to McKenna Drevno, daughter of UM offensive coordinator Tim Drevno, Alex Bromley, son of UM video director Phil Bromley, and the 39 graduates who will attend Michigan in the fall.

But before he began delving out his advice, Harbaugh implored the graduates to stand up and thank those in the stands who have helped them along the way.

“I believe living my life with an attitude for gratitude. My dad (Jack) used to say something all the time at our household that has really stuck with me over the years,” Harbaugh recalled. “He’d say, ‘Who’s got it better than us?’ All us kids would say, ‘Nobody, dad. Nobody.’ It’s very powerful and it always made me smile and was always said at the conclusion of something, bringing a finality to something and it was always intended to mean all is good with the world. What kid could have it better than having a dad who says this and believes it?

“We are all firm in our belief of one another. Truth is, it is darn near impossible for someone to blame him or herself until they find someone who believes in them. By arriving at this milestone today, each of you have earned the belief of someone; your parents, your grandparents; your friends, teachers, clergy, neighbors, the list is long.”

Harbaugh’s first tip was the graduates will need enthusiasm for whatever journey comes next, citing a childhood story when he lived in Iowa City, Iowa, and went to school with a bad attitude as a first grader.

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“That’s the first time my father told my brother, John, and I to attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. It became a mantra for our family. It’s become a mantra for our program,” Harbaugh said. “Enthusiasm must be important. I believe enthusiasm leads to long-term improvement – better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today.”

Harbaugh encouraged the graduates to surround themselves with the most loving, caring, spiritual, hard-working, happy people they could find, learn to be a good follower and to continue seeking help.

“None of us have ever done anything on our own, including being born,” he said. “We need help.”

Harbaugh also provided a reminder that people will always find something about you to make fun of, something that still happens to him almost on a daily basis.

“It happened today, somebody has made fun of me for something. My teeth were crooked, the clothes I wear, how you look, what you weigh, how you talk, what kind of car your parents have,” said Harbaugh, who was at Old Dominion University’s “College Exposure” camp in Norfolk, Va., earlier in the day.

“Mike Ditka, the legendary coach who I played for the Chicago Bears, once told me, ‘Jim, you will have your critics. Screw ‘em.’ And I truly believe it’s one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received.”

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He closed his speech by imploring the graduates to stay on the high road, to do your job well but don’t advertise it, hustle at all times and don’t ever let anyone outwork you.

“High school is over but life is a constant process of education,” Harbaugh said. “Today is the first day of the rest of your life and wherever you go from here, education is the key to unlocking opportunity.”

Harbaugh is scheduled to be the commencement speaker Thursday at New Jersey’s Paramus Catholic High, where junior defensive back Jabrill Peppers, junior offensive lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty, highly touted incoming freshman Rashan Gary, and former Paramus coach and current UM linebackers and special teams coach Chris Partridge all hail from.

Harbaugh will give his speech one day after working the Next Level Football Camp at Paramus Catholic, which will include Syracuse’s Dino Babers, Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi and Maryland’s D.J. Durkin.