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Harbaugh talks grit, dreams and Schwartz’s handshake

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh covered a wide range of topics with Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” podcast from the infamous postgame handshake with former Lions coach Jim Schwartz, to defining gritty players, recruiting, and his dreams in which he’s always playing football.

Podcast hosts Dan “Big Cat” Katz and PFT Commenter, who consider themselves two “regular” guys who have developed quite a following in the podcast world, spent about a half hour with Harbaugh on Tuesday as part of “Grit Week.” The duo called it the hardest interview they’ve ever tried to land and gave a special shout out to Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight for the assist.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said he went in “too aggressive” with his infamous postgame handshake with former Lions coach Jim Schwartz when he was coacing the San Francisco 49ers.

“Don’t think we could have asked for a better guest in terms of grit and what grit means,” they said on the podcast.

Here are some of the interview highlights:

■ On what grit means to Harbaugh: “That’s a very nice compliment, somebody to be described as having grit, having some gravel in the gut. That’s a very good thing, and I appreciate it. I told one of our players, Ben Mason, who’s a freshman linebacker. He early enrolled, he went through spring practice. I’ve never seen anybody go forward and hit somebody better. I think this guy was made to be a fullback. That would be a great way to be described. That’s grit right there. Going forward and hitting somebody better than anybody I’ve ever seen. I’d like to be able to be described that way. That’s somebody’s gravestone.”

■ On if there’s a way to develop grit: “Absolutely you can improve and become better at toughness. It’s a talent but it can be acquired, too. I think of it like building a callus — it actually craves contact. It likes contact, it craves it. As opposed to a car. If you backed into a brick wall that would cost at least $2,000 worth of damage. It doesn’t have the ability to repair itself or callus over, but the human body does. Much like conditioning can improve so can that callus of toughness and grit also be acquired or improve. It would be a like a blister. It’s soft, it’s ‘pusy,’ it’s got fluid in it. It’s going to break. The great thing about it, when it does break, it will callus over even harder, stronger and better.”

■ On recruiting, would he rather have a three-star player who loves football: “Yeah, definitely. People are going to be better at things they love. You’re going to work harder at it. And you need it. Some people need the sport of football. I would put myself in that category. I need it. Some people like and need ice cream. They want to eat it every day. I look at football that way.”

■ On whether he recruited a different type of player to Stanford versus Michigan: “No, no. It’s football players. You know ’em when you see it. I always think of it like you’re really going to tell the truth when you get on the football field. Do you have talent? Have you put in the effort? Are you stronger, are you faster, or are you not? It happens out on the football field almost like a truth serum. There’s no way you to bullcrap your way around it. You can’t send an email, ‘Hey I’m really good.’ Eventually you have to get on the football field. You can see what the fruit is. Like in the Bible, you can tell a good tree bears good fruit. A bad tree bears bad fruit. By your fruit you will be known. By your talent, your effort in football you shall be known. Not different at college, pro or high school. It happens au naturel out on the football field and the truth comes out.”

■ They mentioned a Harbaugh quote, “Ain’t hard being a football player if you’re a football player.” His take: “That comes from many years of listening to people whine or complain how tough things are. ‘This is so hard. This is so rough. Practices are long.’ But if you’re a football player you crave the contact, you like going to bed at night having the head hit the pillow and the muscles are sore. They ache, you’ve sweated, you’re exhausted, you really like that.”

■ On if Jim Harbaugh has eligibility would he put himself on depth chart: “Yeah, yeah. I’ve been playing. I play in dreams. I don’t ever have any coaching dreams, but I have football dreams still and I play. I’ve noticed, they’re not so much NFL games anymore. Sometimes I’ll be D-I, but more and more for some reason I’m in the D-III now. I’ve got another year of eligibility and nobody would sign me, and I was able to get a (spot). It’s young me. I think I’m moving like young me, but I have an older-me face. Sometimes I’m right back in young me, too. It’s a dream, so you don’t have a whole lot of control over it, but I’m right in there playing, not coaching. I love those football dreams.”

■ On what his stat line is in a dream: “It’s usually fourth quarter the dream starts that I remember the dream. Almost always in the dream, maybe we’ve just gotten within seven or three, something might have gone bad in the previous series, but then I’m usually trotting out, the dream ends I’m out there for the final series, and I haven’t had one where it actually finishes. I wake up.”

■ On Harbaugh saying he hasn’t been in a wrestling match since he was 39: “I don’t want to go into the details.” He was asked if he won. “I don’t know if I really won. It was a fist fight. A couple guys, it was like a Bennigan’s type of thing, somebody made a comment, I took exception. I took a couple shots. But there were two guys. I did not win. I cannot say I won, but I didn’t get crushed either. Got some blows in.”

San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh argues with Lions head coach Jim Schwartz after a 2011 game at Ford Field in Detroit.

■ On the infamous postgame with Schwartz at Ford Field: “I went in too aggressive on that handshake. I’ve since changed that. Not doing that anymore. Can’t blame him. I went in too hard, too aggressively on the handshake. You respect him for taking exception to that. I respect that. We’ve talked, we’re good. There’s a protocol with the postgame handshake. I’ve been there as the winner, I’ve been there as the loser. You just (say), ‘Hey nice game’ and then go celebrate. Premature celebration there. In the wrong. The postgame handshake isn’t the place for anything. If you’re bitter, change the ‘I’ to an ‘E.’ Don’t get bitter get better. Nothing’s going to change at the postgame handshake.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

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