P.J. Fleck follows Jim Harbaugh’s advice: ‘Do it your way’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
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P.J. Fleck

First-year Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck, 36, said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh inspires him to continue being himself as he works his way up the college football coaching ranks.

The two will face each other Saturday night at Michigan Stadium when the Wolverines play Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug.

“First and foremost, he’s one of the coaches I’ve respected and looked up to for a very long time, especially as a very young coach,” Fleck, the former Western Michigan coach, said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches’ call. “Us in our profession, we’re always taught to be ourselves. Jim Harbaugh is himself. He has taught me for a long time that it’s OK to be yourself. I give him a lot of credit for that because he’s a trailblazer and a pioneer of making sure that you can be yourself in all areas, recruiting-wise, how you run a program, to the media – you can be the real person that you are.

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“He’s had a ton of success everywhere he’s been – first of all, just playing quarterback – and then San Diego, Stanford and San Francisco and now at Michigan. He does it his way. The best advice I got was, ‘P.J., just make sure you do it your way.’

“It brings validation to all the things I was taught by Jim Tressel and some others about just be yourself. You don’t have to impress anybody, just be you. (Harbaugh) is a pioneer and trailblazer for my own career and my own life. I’ve only been around him a handful of times but every time I have been, I’ve soaked in any bit of knowledge I possibly can.”

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Harbaugh said what has impressed him about Fleck-coached teams is their hustle. Fleck, 36, led Western Michigan to the MAC championship last season and a spot in the New Year’s Six Cotton Bowl.

“I’ve always been impressed being around him in person and watching his teams, watching the Western Michigan team,” Harbaugh said on the Big Ten call. “And now, mostly, impressed with the Minnesota team. The hustle, that’s the first thing that stands out watching the film. You click it on and you see the hustle. Good players, tough schemes and the way they hustle to the ball, the way they go after the ball defensively really stands out. The tempo of play in all three phases. They play hard and with a lot of hustle and they’re talented guys and they’re coaching them well. It’s a good ballclub. Recent evidence is what I’m watching right now.”

Michigan is 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten; Minnesota is 4-4 and 1-4.

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