Transcript of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh’s media session during Day 1 of the Big Ten Media Days.
Harbaugh’s opening statement: “Thank you very much. Great to see everybody here. Glad you all made it. Good to see people again I haven’t seen in a while.
It’s been an enjoyable day. Having fun. Brought three wonderful players and youngsters with us today. I’d like to talk about each of them, know them better now going into the second year. I feel like more time with our players and know our players well.
I think we have a lot of top players, as you mentioned there. But these three — Jake Butt, an outstanding 6-foot, 6-foot-1/2-inch tight end, one of the most gung ho players I’ve ever been around. Can sit through a two and a half-hour, three-hour meeting and be interactive, be on the edge of his seat, walk out of that meeting with a bounce in his step and put his football gear on, kind of hair on the back of his neck is standing up, excited to get out on the field and he practices and whether he’s going out to hit his sled or rattle somebody’s fillings, just excited about doing that as he is as running a post route or corner route and catching a ball. Does all those things equally well as a route runner, as a blocker, as a teammate and as a guy with some pizzazz. He’s gung ho and enjoys the struggle of football. Really enjoy him as one of our top players.
Also Jourdan Lewis who has been at every practice, every drill, competitor who wants to get better every single day. He doesn’t take time off. He doesn’t diminish his effort at any time.
He’s an ascending player, improving player. And when he started to get the recognition of being a really good player, all-American, All-Big Ten, interceptions and acclaim, when he started getting the acclaim, he didn’t change a bit. He went through the entire spring practice wanting to get better, wanting to improve every single day. And a high character individual. Has never had a disrespectful word to a professor, to a coach, to a teammate.
He’s just a pleasure to be around. He’s not one bit of incident or problem when it comes to Jourdan Lewis. And he’s a likable guy. He’s respected by everybody on the team, but he also has the personality of being very competitive but being very likable with his teammates, because he doesn’t act like the big man on campus.
He doesn’t act like the All-American. Just a very good person in all respects. Can’t say enough good things about him.
Amara Darboh, I would say he’s our top receiver right now. And as we went through the season last year, I thought that was Jehu Chesson. And then Amara surged during spring ball there, and they’re in a very good-hearted competition there to be our best receiver.
But, again, as a gentleman, as a person, as a class act, a winner, a champion all the way, Amara Darboh. He went through our season last year and he became an American citizen, it was a great moment of pride for Amara and our team that he achieved American citizenship.
And another player on our team, class act the entire way. Never an issue, never a problem. Respectful to all that he comes in contact with. And not just respectful to people, he’s respectful of their time. He’s respectful of the game. He’s respectful in all forms and fashions.
So feel very proud to have brought those three youngsters here to Chicago, and hope you’re enjoying their company as well. And they’re really good football players. Really not just on our team, not just in the Big Ten but also in the United States of America. Pleased to share them with you here in Chicago and be glad to answer any questions.”
Q. So it’s been an entertaining offseason for yourself and Michigan football in terms of social media activity. How has this impacted the team and university during the offseason?
Harbaugh: “I don’t know that it has. I don’t know how entertaining it’s really been. Be glad to go through any of those specifics with you that -- I think it’s been a very productive, healthy offseason for our football team.
I was really pleased with our team the way they went through spring practice. I thought it was extremely productive. The competition was very high for spots, for starting positions, for backup roles, for contributing roles, for specialty roles.
And no real long-term injuries coming out of the season. None of the six-monthers. A few things here and there that we hoped that the guys will be ready for the start of camp. Maybe one or two that may not.
But our goal right now, as we finish up the summer, is get the healthiest, most in-shape, prepared team for August 8th, and then we’ll take our shot from there.”
Q: Something you try to instill with your players is improve one percent each day with everything that they do. My question is, what kind of improvements do you see from returning players and staff and new players and coaches in the fold as well?
Harbaugh: “Just the idea can we get one percent better each day, can we be better today than we were yesterday? Can we be better tomorrow than we were today? The notion that improvement will lead to success.
And that’s the kind of improvement that really sticks, almost like getting in shape. If you were getting in shape, if you do it day after day, a little bit, a little bit better, a little bit better each day, you may not see it in a day. You may not see it in a week. You may not even see it in a month but at some point you’re going to see it and it’s going to stick. That improvement is going to be there for the long run.
So trying to paint that picture. If it’s one percent better, each guy or we got one percent better as a team each day, then after 30 days we’d be 30 percent better. After 60 days, we’d be 60 percent better.
Now, even if it’s can we get .01 percent better each day, then that would be something that would be worthwhile. That would be worth pursuing, aspiring to. Another way to say is look at the NASCAR boys. They will try to stay up all night long to get one mile an hour faster. Can we get one mile faster each day? That mentality, simply put, is better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today.”
Q. Big event coming up Saturday at the Big House, Real Madrid versus Chelsea. Are you going to be available to attend? Your players? Is that a day off for you guys? Do you have a rooting interest in the match?
Harbaugh: “I’ll be rooting for the team that plays the hardest to win. And I do believe I have a ticket to go to the game, unless they’ve given it away. But I did respond, RSVP’ed that I’d like to go to the game.”
Q. You mentioned a couple of those injuries of guys you weren’t sure about. Is Jehu going to be able to go when you guys open camp?
Harbaugh: “Yes, I believe he will.”
Q. As you approach your second season with U of M, what did you learn from your first season coaching that you’ll be implementing into your second season?
Harbaugh: “Oh, I’m sure there’s a lot of things that were learned. Mostly you learn the fellows. You learn the guys, all those that you worked with, everybody who is a part of the staff -- trainers, equipment, everybody who is involved with the university, the professors, you’re doing things for the second time. And that’s the biggest advantage. When you’re doing things for the first time there’s unchartered waters, there’s the unknown.
When you’re doing it for the second year, everything that you are doing you’ve already done once and now you’re doing it a second time. So that can be an advantage.”
Q. Just coming off the success of that first season, seems over the course of the offseason the spotlight has really been put on Michigan, the kind of swagger that’s returned to the program. How are you addressing that with the kids of having such high expectations going into this 2016 season?
Harbaugh: “I’ll address it with our players, our staff, the same way I think of it. We have big hopes. We’ve got big dreams. We’ve got lofty goals. And all those are achievable. And they have to be worked for.
You can accomplish anything if the work is realized. And those things have to be earned. So we are in the position right now to work to get the things we want. That’s the fact. That’s the mentality. That’s the attitude.”
Q. With the East Division being as stacked as it is, how do you assess how important it is to navigate week-to-week throughout the season with that east side being as good as it is talent-wise?
Harbaugh: “I think the main focus, the greatest share, the biggest percentage is focusing on getting better each day, better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today. Understanding that improvement will lead to success. That’s the theory and it’s so simple that it just might work.”
Q. With three straight nonconference home games to open up the year does that make it easier to incorporate the highly touted freshman class into the game plan with Rashan Gary and players like that?
Harbaugh: “Are you talking about playing time for freshmen? Again we have some very good freshmen we believe have the ability and will have the license to play. Everything thereby based on a meritocracy. That’s one of my favorite things, my personal favorite things about our program, is that you’ll be known by your effort and your talent. By your effort and your talent you will be known.
So the best players will be the starters and then the backup roles will be earned. The contributing roles will be earned, the specialty roles will be earned, scout team roles will be earned.
It’s as simple as that. There is no games or tricks or politics or what class are you in, what year are you, are you on scholarship, are you not on scholarship. It’s based upon a meritocracy, the way it should be. Did I make that word up, too, by the way? Is meritocracy a real word or did I make it up? I thought I made it up.”
Q. What’s your thoughts on going to the nine-game conference schedule and kind of if that gives you any advantages or disadvantages in the national landscape?
Harbaugh: “I think it’s good on a number of levels. We’re closer. We’re playing the teams that are in our area. You could get on a bus and go to most of the schools, not most, maybe some of the schools anyway. Makes scheduling easier, we’re in the same conference, has implications on who the champion is. I think it’s very good.”
Q. What was your thought when someone came to you and said let’s do a rap video and how do you think it turned out?
Harbaugh: “My default is usually yes. Action, why not? And the reaction has been very good. I’ve gotten multiple texts, phone calls, comments from people that really liked it and I think the cool people liked it.”
Q. Michael Jordan is going to be your honorary captain for your home opener. What is it like to have one of the greatest athletes in history represent your team on a day like that?
Harbaugh: “My thoughts are proud and honored to share a sideline with Michael Jordan. Proud, honored to have shared the Jumpman logo on our uniforms.”
Q. When you look at what Jabrill Peppers has done in his career at Michigan, what he’s poised to do and all his versatility, what makes you think he’s such a special athlete that he is and how high is the ceiling for Mr. Peppers?
Harbaugh: “Well, anything is accomplishable for Jabrill Peppers in the game of football. Again, they’ve got to be worked for. He is a — let me start by saying this: I think football players, professional football players are the greatest athletes in the world and Jabrill is that kind of athlete. He’s that kind of athlete that has the greatest in the world type of athleticism.
He can play just about anywhere on a football field and be effective. Put him in a corner, put him in a safety. Put him in a nickel. Put him in a linebacker. Ultimately probably nickel is his best position. He can be a returner of the punts, returner of the kickoffs. He could be a gunner. He could be a hold-up guy.
Offensively probably right now could probably be our slot receiver and would give De’Veon and all of our running backs a run for their money to be the best running back on the team. Could be a wildcat quarterback. Could be an outside receiver. Can run all the reverses and fly sweeps.
So I think you get the picture. He is a tremendous athlete. The other thing about Jabrill is he’s highly, highly motivated and very serious about being good. He’s seen a lot in his life from an early age. He’s felt people try to put him down. He’s felt people try to put hate on him from an early age. Some about even where he went to high school. He took he’s taken a lot of racial and other type of directive hate toward him. He’s never let that get him down or put him down. He’s always used that as fuel and motivation.
So he’s a very fiery guy. He is highly motivated and with the type of athleticism that he has, I truly believe he keeps working and keeps having the same intensity and focus that he’s had and the seriousness about being a very good football player and student and all those things.
He could explode into I mean a giant of a man.”