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Fans flock from all over for Harbaugh’s autograph

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh signs autographs for fans at the M Den store in downtown Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor — On a day when Mark Dantonio signed a revised contract as head football coach at Michigan State, Jim Harbaugh was doing some signing of his own.

Harbaugh, who has quickly become a star in Ann Arbor after guiding the Wolverines to a 10-3 record in his first year, was making hundreds of Michigan fans happy by signing autographs at the M Den just before 3 p.m. Friday.

Some fans waited as early as 4 a.m. to get in line at the store to get wristbands, which were handed out at 9 a.m., guaranteeing them a spot to be one of the lucky 200 to meet and get an autograph from Harbaugh.

Others traveled hours for the chance to meet him.

“I’ve been a Michigan fan for a long time, went to school here, graduated in 1979 and had a great time,” said Rick Mousseau, who traveled from Holland. “Rick Leach was one of the stars when I went here, Butch Woolfolk was another. My wife went to school here, too, and so did my son.

“I came here to try to get an autograph, but I’m sure the line’s going to be too long. I didn’t get a wristband. So far he’s been great, done a fantastic job.”

Hoss Stevens, of Jackson, arrived at 5 a.m. with his mission to get an autograph from Harbaugh to use as a silent auction item for his cancer foundation, which is in memory of his sister, Angel Ann Niceswander.

Stevens gave Harbaugh a T-shirt from his foundation, the same one he gave former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson earlier this month.

“This is my life right here,” Stevens said. “I lost my sister April 13th and named the foundation after her. We’re doing a benefit dinner May 1st (details at 517-914-1210). We select a child and an adult with Stage 4 terminal cancer and we raise money for them the first Sunday of every May. We split the money toward final expenses.

“The young lady that we selected was 28 years old and she passed a month ago and left behind three little kids. Our goal is to raise $10,000, which will pay her funeral off. And we selected a little eight-year-old boy who is being treated at (C.S. Mott Childern’s Hospital).”

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Melody Stein, a 21-year-old Michigan student, got in line at 7:30 a.m. and was part of the overflow crowd not guaranteed an autograph.

“Everybody remembers the last play of the Michigan State game when they panned over the crowd and you could see the guy with his hands on his head. I’m the girl next to him,” explained Stein, who is from Newport News, Va. “I’m the girl with the tiara and it’s my 21st birthday, and I got let down. I’m hoping for some validation that I didn’t waste my time. I’m hoping to get that picture signed.

“Really, I couldn’t be happier to have Jim Harbaugh as our head coach. The way that last year (2014) ended was just sad, so being able to see such a turnaround with the firing of (athletic director) Dave Brandon, with getting rid of (former coach Brady) Hoke, with being able to bring alumni back and it being a tradition-based school again has been good to see, so I’m excited to be here.”

Mike Alley, 57, has been a Michigan fan ever since his family moved to Clinton in 1971 when he was in eighth grade. He arrived at 7 a.m. and also wasn’t guaranteed a signature. He played football at Clinton High where he was coached by Don Eaton, a former Michigan player who played for Bo Schembechler in the early ‘70s.

Alley took his first road trip to watch a Michigan game at Columbus in 1986.

“My first away game at Ohio State was when Jimmy guaranteed a win over Ohio State and I still remember Bo’s reaction; he wasn’t too happy about it,” Alley said. “I think he (Harbaugh) will do a great job at Michigan. He’s definitely a no-nonsense guy, kind of the same way of doing things that Bo had.”

Katie Rew, 19, from Wixom, carried a No. 4 Harbaugh jersey with her.

“I’m a huge Michigan fan,” Rew said. “Detroit loves Jim Harbaugh and I love Jim Harbaugh. I’m getting a jersey autographed and then I’m going to frame it at home. I’m going to get a little plaque to go with it and then I’ll hang it in my room.”