UM uniforms revealed: Woodson got ball rolling with MJ

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh speaks during the Michigan Nike Jumpman reveal Tuesday in Detroit.

Detroit – Former Michigan Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson had an idea: Why not join Michigan football with basketball legend Michael Jordan and the Nike Jordan Jumpman brand?

After a text conversation with Jordan, in which he approved the idea, Woodson, who has a personal endorsement deal with the Jumpman brand, took the idea to former interim athletic director Jim Hackett and the process was set in motion.

Michigan’s new Nike football uniforms bearing the Jordan Jumpman logo on the left front of the jersey were unveiled Tuesday at the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. Michigan’s athletic programs officially moved to Nike on Monday.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and a number of current players, Woodson and former Wolverine LaMarr Woodley were on hand for the news conference. The Nike deal, brokered by Hackett during his short tenure as interim AD, was announced last summer and was then the largest college deal with Nike at 15 years (if Michigan opts for the extension) and just more than $173 million.

“I sent Michael a text and I just asked him if I had his blessing to bring it up,” Woodson said Tuesday. “He got right back and said it was cool, and I ran with it from there. Then I had a conversation with Jim Hackett and me and Jim talked it over and he kept an open mind to it. My thoughts were going back to Nike, but man, I thought it would be even better if the Jumpman was on Michigan football along with it. He was receptive to it, and I think that got the ball rolling and they took it from there.”

It did not take long to convince Harbaugh that joining the Nike Jordan Jumpman brand would be the right decision.

“Second day on the job I said, ‘I really want to be Nike,’” Harbaugh said. “About a month or two after that my son Jay said, ‘Hey dad, I think we should be Jordan.’ Hey, great idea. It all set into motion.

“Michael Jordan called me on the telephone and said they wanted us to be the first and only football school program in the world to be Jordan, and I said, ‘You had me at hello.’ We’ve been working on this for a very long time.

“He told me something else I thought was profound, that you know what Nike means to Oregon, you know what Oregon means to Nike, Michigan will mean that to Jordan. That, I thought, was powerful and profound, but he had me at hello on that conversation.”

Nike orchestrated a Hollywood-like premiere for the jerseys at the historic Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, the birthplace of the Ford Model T. The plant is described on its website as a “symbol of Detroit’s ability to invent, innovate, and rebound.”

In some ways that describes what Harbaugh has attempted to do at Michigan. Harbaugh, entering his second season at his alma mater, has been innovative since his arrival as he’s worked to help the program rebound from its lean years.

The event featured individual displays for the blue and maize home and all-white away uniforms, which again will be a staple this fall, with edgy, cool blue neon light.

Michigan’s new uniforms don’t look vastly different than last year, but the Jumpman logo on the left chest and elsewhere on the uniform and shoes make it unique. The jersey and the Air Jordan Trainer 1 shoe will be available for purchase Saturday at the M Den.

Woodson said having a basketball logo on a football uniform is not odd.

“To me, it has nothing to do with basketball,” Woodson said. “It’s all about Michael Jordan’s greatness. Before you look at the championships and the MVPs, what went into Michael? What got him there? That’s to me what the Jumpman is about.

“Yeah, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player, and that opinion is shared by a lot of people, myself included. But how did he get there? It’s all about the work. How did this university get to where it is now? It didn’t just pop up here one day and all of a sudden it’s one of the greatest universities we know. There’s a lot that went into it, and to me, that’s what the Jumpman is all about. It’s about that journey to get to the point where somebody can revere you as being the greatest of all time.”

Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who attended the unveiling, echoed Woodson’s opinion.

“It’s great to be a part of a legacy that’s beyond football, beyond basketball,” Lewis said.

For Harbaugh, the Michigan-Nike marriage was a no-brainer.

“As Jack Harbaugh said, you are with whom you associate,” Harbaugh said, citing his father. “To be associated with greatness and to think about having Michael Jordan sharing a sideline with us. Think about the only football team that’s Jordan is the University of Michigan. To have that iconic logo sharing the uniform, we’re very, very proud of that.”

Jordan will be the honorary captain when Michigan opens the season against Hawaii on Sept. 3 at Michigan Stadium.