Please enjoy this special except from the recently published book on Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh.
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THE BIG TEN,
THE BIG HOUSE,
THE BIG TIME
A ROOMIE WITH A VIEW
“Q,” as Jerry Quaerna is known, grew up in Janesville and Fort
Atkinson, Wisconsin. He was recruited by all the Big Ten
schools, but once he walked in The Big House, it was all over
for the other schools. Q lives in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and
commutes to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he is a vital cog working
for the Department of Homeland Security.
I was recruited to play football at Michigan. When I went
there, Jim was my roommate. Jim and I were paired up as
freshmen. We didn’t know each other. Then we lived together
as fifth-year seniors. I got to see Jim before he was a big star
and after he was big time.
I had a long trip over from Wisconsin. I got unpacked, and
I was sleeping on my bed in the dorm when Jim showed up
with Jim Minick. He grew up with Minick in Ann Arbor. Minick
spent 26 years in the Marines and is now Jim’s right-hand man
on his Michigan staff. I woke up and introduced myself to these
guys. What was the first thing Jim did? This was back in the day.
This was ’82. We had LPs. I was into music, and I had about 20
LPs and my turntable. Those were going to go out the window
in three or four years, but I had a nice collection of vinyl there.
After Jim shook my hand, he went straight to my vinyl collection,
and he critiqued it. I’m not kidding you. I had good stuff.
I had the Doors, I had Jimi Hendrix. I had plenty of Beatles. I’m
a big Beatles fan. Jethro Tull. I had Hot Rocks from the Stones. I
loved that album. I had Black Sabbath. I had some great independent
records. I had some Priest.
Jim is going through my records, and he’s saying, “Yep, no,
yep, no. Doors, no. Beatles, nope. Jethro Tull, no.” When he’s
done critiquing my collection, he goes, “You don’t have any
Who.” I don’t have any Who, but I like the Who enough. Then he
had a reference to Tom Petty, because he was a big Tom Petty
and the Heartbreakers fan. I had a full critique of my album
collection within about three minutes of meeting Jim. Within
a week or two, Jim and I had a very heated argument over who
would be a better front man. He was a big Who fan, and he was
a big Roger Daltrey fan. I loved Led Zeppelin. I’m thinking of
course Robert Plant is a better singer than Roger Daltrey, and
Jim is taking the opposite side of that debate. The thing you’ve
got to understand is when it’s on and it’s go time and you’re
defending your position—it’s on. I’m sure this resonates down
the road with some of his coaching staffs and all. It’s an all out
heated conversation. There wasn’t any “let’s just agree to disagree.”
We had a heated battle over Daltrey versus Plant. I won
that debate. But even today, I’m taking Robert Plant over Roger
Daltrey, and I like Daltrey.
When Jim walked into the dorm room that first time, I was
sleeping—taking a nap before our first big meeting with Bo. Of
course, what happened at that meeting is legendary, because
Minick dropped off Jim late. He was about 10 minutes late to
our very first freshman meeting. Jim didn’t just get his butt
chewed, he was disemboweled in front of the whole freshman
class. Seriously, it was just a butt chewing. That evening, Jim
and I were back at the room. I was trying to console the guy
somewhat over this complete disemboweling in front of the
freshman class. Jim had a wooden closet next to his bed. He
was pounding on this closet and dropping some choice expletives.
Here I was, four hours into Michigan football, thinking,
what did I get myself into? That was Day One.
Jack Harbaugh was in Kalamazoo when I was a freshman
with Jim, so I didn’t see him much. He’d show up on occasion,
but he was busy with his own team at Western Michigan. He
didn’t gravitate toward Ann Arbor except on the rare occasion.
Flash forward to December of that first year. There’s
another story that I want you to know. It’s far out. But it was
one of the worst episodes of me putting my foot in my mouth,
just a major, big-time gaffe. It’s seared into my skull. We had
just finished with Rose Bowl practices, and we were going to fly
out to California on Christmas Day. But we had the 23rd and
24th for vacation time. Everybody got to go home. I was too
far away, and the people that were too far away could stay at a
hotel. That would have been fine. But Jim offered to have me go
home to Kalamazoo and spend Christmas with his family for
two days. Yeah, I don’t want to be stuck in a hotel. Sure, I’ll go
home with you 90 miles to Kalamazoo.
So we got there, and I met the Harbaugh family. Very hospitable.
Very tight. I got to meet John for the first time. John is
different from Jim. John is a little more laid-back. He’s more of
a diplomat. Jim is more fiery. We were having a big debate in
the basement. Jack was there, John was there, I was there, Jim
was there. What were we discussing? We were discussing if the
game were on the line, do you want to be behind and have the
ball or do you want to be ahead and be on defense? We’re getting
into this knockdown, drag out thing. I knew what position I
was going to take. Jim phrased it, in the heat of the moment. He
said, “Here’s the situation. It’s the biggest game. It’s the Super
Bowl. Do you want the ball and be behind to win the game?
Or do you want your defense out there with the lead?” I said,
of course, I wanted the defense. Defense wins championships.
I gave him that whole spin. John agreed with me. He wanted
the lead, and he wanted the defense out on the field. Jim was
doing cartwheels, because he took the opposite side of that
debate. He said, “I want the ball.” Now remember, he phrased
this one, “The game is on the line, and it’s the Super Bowl.” We
were going back and forth, and it was heated. Jack was sitting
right there, but he wasn’t chiming in. He was just sitting back
and enjoying it. He was soaking it up. Here was when it went
really ugly for me. I was ready to just throw it out and sink Jim’s
ship. We were debating fiercely. I said, “All right, Jim.” Jim’s guy
was John Elway. He loved John Elway. Elway wound up finishing
second in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior year. That
would have been the year Jim and I were freshmen—1982.
Jim talked about Elway quite a bit. Jim was a big Joe Montana
fan, too, and he had a picture of Joe Montana on the wall.
He also had…was it Joe Montana’s girlfriend or Dwight Clark’s
girlfriend? It was Dwight Clark’s girlfriend, Shawn Weatherly,
Miss Universe. Very aesthetically pleasing.
Anyway, Elway put up some pretty good numbers. Jim
watched John Elway play at Stanford when Jim was playing at
Palo Alto High. I was going for the knockout blow. I said, “Okay,
Jim, what just happened with your boy Elway, perhaps the
greatest college quarterback who has ever played the game?
Why didn’t he go to any bowl games? It wasn’t because they
weren’t scoring points. It was because they weren’t stopping
people.” I was thinking, okay, that was a point for me. The place
got real quiet. Deathly quiet. Jim and John both looked at me,
stared at me and said, “Damn, that’s just cold, Q.” Okay, I just
won the debate. What’s so cold about that? Unbeknownst to
me, Jack was the defensive coordinator for Stanford for Elway’s
sophomore and junior years. Here I was, being taken care of
really well by this family, and I just threw my foot in my mouth
big time. I’ll never forget that moment in my entire life. I had
the debate won, and the next thing you know, those guys are
looking at me and the conversation just ended. On a dime.
Flash forward years later. I was watching Jim and John
coach against each other in the Super Bowl, and I was thinking,
okay, I remember this. That was the context of that conversation
that went horribly wrong for me. I watched the game, and
it looked like it was on the verge of a blowout. The RAVENS* were
going to win big. Then the power went out at the Superdome.
When play resumed, Jim’s 49ers started creeping back. I was
thinking, holy cow. That was what transpired. Jim’s team was
coming from behind, and they had the ball with an opportunity
to win at the end of the game. That discussion just came
full circle. It was just astonishing to me. But I assure you, it
happened. I will never forget it. Perhaps John and Jim and Jack
don’t remember the time the Big Cheese stuck that size-16
right in his mouth to finish off that debate. It was really weird.
I don’t know if they remember that. They were so busy and so
accomplished, maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal. But for me, it
seared into my skull. Here I was, being hosted by a marvelous
family, and I just had that huge gaffe. I will never forget it until
I hit the grave.
Here’s another story. It was the time the “paddy wagon”
showed up. I had a good vantage point. Somebody got carried
away at a donut shop, late at night, after bar time. There
were some punches thrown. Bo found out immediately and
had these guys rounded up. I sat up on the fifth floor and saw
the paddy wagon show up. It was assistant coaches, and they
rounded up these guys and took them down to Bo. I wasn’t
part of the meeting. Luckily, I wasn’t hanging out with them
Jim and I were not exactly fashionistas. We were more
ham-and-eggers. But our fashion senses clashed on occasion.
If there is an argument that is ensuing, it’s on. There was one
conversation we were having about the shorts we were wearing.
I had a sweet pair of green shorts with white stripes. They
were a dark green. I just loved them and wore them a lot. They
were indestructible. They were the perfect shorts for me. Jim
had these goofy-looking red plaid shorts that went down below
his knees. I don’t know how to describe them, but I wouldn’t
have worn those things if you paid me. Jim and I were going
*The Baltimore RAVENS once were the Cleveland Browns; the
Baltimore Orioles once were the St. Louis Browns.
back and forth about who had the sweetest shorts. Nobody
was winning that conversation, but it just kept going on. Flash
forward to some of what I was reading from Jim’s wife about
the khaki pants. I’m saying to myself, I understand your side of
the argument, with these khaki pants. But you’re not going to
win, so don’t bother going there. That’s what I’m telling myself,
because I’m just flashing back to when we were clashing in our
fashion senses. Obviously, neither one of us was the Tim Gunn
of the day. I could identify with her frustrations, because I was
Those shorts were like golfing, purple plaid/reddish plaid
Capri pants. He was telling me they were so sweet. I was wearing
my green shorts and told him, “I wouldn’t trade mine for a
100 pairs of yours. Those things look horrible on you.” Neither
one of us won.
One thing about living with Jim was what you see, that’s
reality. What you see on the sideline, that’s reality. It’s not an
act. I was more of a guy of let’s just leave it on the field, let’s go
back to the dorm and lick our wounds and get ready for the
next day. But a lot of times, it was almost like we were shark
fetuses sharing a womb in the South Quad for a year. It was just
like that. You had to be on, and every opinion was contested.
One time Mike Reinhold—Reiny—and I came back from a
freshman philosophy class, a philosophy of religion class. We
had to write a paper on the pros and cons—the strong suits and
the weak points—of the atheist perspective. Reiny and I were
in the dorm. Jim was doing his thing. He wasn’t part of that
class. Reiny and I were ripping on point A, point B, point C,
point D. Then for the other side of the equation, we had point
A, B, C and D. Well, Jim joined the conversation. He was so
displeased with the pro-atheist side that he had a conniption.
He barged right in on the conversation and laid down the law
according to Jim. “There was a God, and the atheists are wrong.
They’re wrong because of X, Y and Z.” He wasn’t even part of
the class, and here he was, getting into a heated discussion
about atheism. He just jumped right in and called them out
and said that it ain’t happening.
Jim was pretty darned mad with that whole atheist debate.
There was smoke coming out of his ears. He wanted nothing to
do with hearing the “pros” of an atheist. Reiny and I were looking
at each other, like, oh, wow. He was pretty hot. And he was
only a freshman.
Another time he was mad even worse than the atheist episode.
Jim went home after our sophomore year and stayed at
home for about six weeks. He was going to come back in a day
or two, but didn’t. Reiny and I threw down a huge party at 1002
Packard. Jim didn’t show up until the next day or the day after
that. He found out that we had this butt-kicking party down at
1002 before he got back from Kalamazoo. Jim was white-hot
livid after that one, just white-hot. It got ugly. We were driving
to Rick’s American Café. Reiny and I were in the backseat, and
John and Jim were in the front. John had dropped Jim off. We
were going to party at Rick’s for $2 pitcher night. Jim could not
let it go, the fact that Reiny and I had thrown this party prior
to his arrival. It got so bad that I had the impulse to just pop
Jim right there. It was that ugly. I probably should have popped
him, just to settle him down. I should have given him a shiner.
It was that bad. That’s probably the maddest I’ve ever seen him.
It was a great party, though.
I didn’t see John that much. He was busy playing at Miami,
and then he started coaching. Our paths crossed and I tell you
what, I love that guy. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever met in
my life. I just love his demeanor, his mannerism. Very professional.
Very diplomatic. In fact, the State Department would
be lucky to have that guy. Yes, he’s got a fight to him. Of course,
he’s got fight to him, but that guy would make a fantastic diplomat,
I have one story about women and Jim that you can print.
I’ve got a lot of them, but I’ve got one that you can print. Jim
had a girlfriend when we were fifth-year seniors. Her name
was Linda, but we called her Lindy. She was marvelous. Well,
Jim and Lindy would play a lot of chess games to pass the time,
and Jim had a little plastic cardboard box chess set that he kept
in his room. I had a marble chess set that I purchased down
in Tijuana when we were down there for the Holiday Bowl. I
brought it back on the plane. It was big and had hand-carved
pieces. I’ve still got it. I had that chess set out at all times.
Reiny and I were sharing the biggest room in the house. We
had a marvelous couch there. We always had this chess set in
front of this marvelous couch. There were a lot of chess games
being played. None of us were Bobby Fischer. We weren’t
Boris Spassky, either. But it was fun. There was one time when
Lindy came to see me after getting annihilated by Jim for the
millionth straight time. She pleaded with me, “Q, will you play
Jim in chess? You can beat him. He’s getting too cocky.” I said,
“Yeah, okay, Lindy. Send him in. I’ll b—- slap him for you. Jim
sat down. The thing you have to understand about my handcarved
chess set is that if you weren’t really familiar with it, the
bishops and pawns had very similar shapes. The bishops were
just a little bit taller. It was easy to not distinguish between the
two, unless you were experienced with the set. What I did was—
as soon as I could—move my bishops up into the second rank,
so that they looked like pawns. The first time I struck with those
bishops, he said, “Are you serious? You can’t move a pawn like
that.” I said, “That’s a bishop.” “Are you serious? You’re going to
take that?” I said, “Hell, yes, I am.” We proceeded, and it was
beautiful. This is a girl story that’s G-rated for you. All of a sudden,
the game was going south for Jim, because I was striking
from my second row with my bishops and taking his knights.
He was getting all heated. “You can’t do that! That’s a pawn!”
I said, “That’s a bishop.” I won those games, a couple of them.
Lindy was thrilled. But I have to say—to be honest—there was
a little home-cooking going on, a little home court advantage.
Let me tell you a story about that couch. I had the best
couch ever to get into Ann Arbor. My buddy in Fort Atkinson,
his parents had this couch that must have been nine feet long.
It was super comfortable. It might have been the only thing
that got me through two-a-days, because if you were on that
couch and wanted to get comfortable, you were out. It was perhaps
the best couch I’ve ever been on in my life. Well, Jim and
the other roomies were going to get rid of it. I said, “Are you
kidding?” It had ’70s colors. It had oranges, yellows, browns
and stripes. They wanted to get rid of it just for style. I said,
“This is a very substantive couch.” Everybody loved this couch.
Well, I didn’t have a place to put it after our sophomore year, so
I asked Jim, who was renting a house with Reiny. I said, “Hey,
I need a place to stash my couch.” He said, “Bring it in. Hell,
yeah. We’ll even help you.” We moved the couch in there, and
it was there all summer.
In the fall, it was time for me to get my couch out of that
house, because I wasn’t living with them as a junior. They kept
telling me in the locker room, “Oh, no. You’re never getting
that couch back. No, it’s perfect right where it is.” What I had to
do was wait and creep in there when I knew the door was open,
but when I knew those guys were doing something footballrelated.
I had to move it out on the sly. I got my couch out of
there. I left a big chasm in the living room when it was all said
and done. I don’t think they were too thrilled when they got
Jim was a bright student. He didn’t have any issues. He was
solid. He was very good. He took a lot of classes with Lindy.
He went out with her for a few years. If I’m not mistaken, she
ended up becoming a lawyer.
Jim was very disappointed once. We were freshmen. I got
a call. I answered the phone and said, “Hello.” A voice I didn’t
recognize said, “Is Jim there?” I said he wasn’t there right now,
could I take a message. “Tell him Gil Brandt called.” That’s
the head scout for the Dallas Cowboys, one of the best scouts
going back in the day. Jim got back, and I gave him the good
news. We were just freshmen. We were nobodies. I said, “Jim,
you’re not going to believe this. Gil Brandt called a little while
ago.” He said, “You’re kidding.” “No, he called, man.” Jim was
doing cartwheels. He was jacked up. His dad called a couple of
hours later, and said, “Sorry to disappoint you. That was your
uncle.” He had an uncle who was a football coach somewhere
out in Pittsburgh or somewhere. His name was Jerry. I could be
mistaken. But it was his uncle, playing a joke on him through
me. Jim was looking at me like I was part of the scam. Who am
I to say? Gil Brandt called, you know? He was looking at me like
I was an idiot.
When you’re a freshman and you’re not going to play, you
end up on the meat squad. I was on the meat squad. Reiny was
on the meat squad. Most of us ended up on what we called
the Demo Squad—the demonstration squad, the scout team.
We ran the plays of the opposing teams against the first-team
players. We all got creamed by the first-teamers, time after
time. Well, all of the back-up quarterbacks, except Jim, were
doing demo work. There were only a handful of freshmen who
avoided that kind of abuse. Jim was watching our first-team
offense most of the time. It was very rare to see him down getting
his brains blown out behind a bunch of freshmen linemen
trying to play against the first-teamers. That might have been a
good indicator right there that Jim was a little bit different. He
was being spared the carnage, shall we say.
When Jim finally was able to start, as a junior, he got his
arm broken against Michigan State halfway through the season.
After that, we had some trouble moving the ball and
ended up 6-6. I don’t know how to describe it, but the behavior
of the coaches going through that, coaches who were not used
to a 6-6 season versus some seasons when we had some really
great success. It was interesting to watch the whole dynamic
go down. Then they made some tweaks, and Jim came back.
We finished second in the country the following year. It was a
famine to feast operation there.
Have you ever read Steven Pressfield? Before you die,
read Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Marvelous book. He’s
a historical fiction writer, and he invents a mundane character
and puts that character in front of a lot of heavy hitters. I
didn’t know Jim or anybody when I showed up in Ann Arbor,
and Jim was my roommate. Now I’m watching him have all the
success that he’s had. I’ve seen some of these big figures, big
towering figures in football, like Bo, and like Jim. I’ve seen John
and all of them. Sometimes I think I’m one of those mundane
characters in a Pressfield novel, when I see all of the success
that these guys have had. It has been cool, humbling. Jim and
I lived together as first-year freshmen and again as fifth-year
seniors, so I got to see the before and after.
After the loss to Arizona State in the ’87 Rose Bowl, let me
share a discussion where I swayed Jim’s opinion. One of our
receivers went on a TV sports show. He was asked, “Why did
you guys lose to Arizona State?” Typical stuff comes out—grass
versus turf, heat, climate, being so far away from home—the
standard B.S. that you hear. I spoke up as a bunch of the guys
were going back and forth. I said, “Guys, I can tell you why we
lost to Arizona State. Arizona State had a great team, and they
had one of the best offensive lines that this game has ever seen.
That interior five was fantastic. However, a big reason we lost—
and a big reason why under Bo we did not have a lot of success
in bowl games—was because we scrimmaged too much.”
When you are in the season, in an 11- and 12-game season,
you’re insulated from constant banging.
Our practices were usually pretty brutal when we hit, and
our hitting days were Tuesday and Wednesday. If we had a
game on Saturday, we got to rest on Sunday. We’re running
around in shorts and jerseys on Mondays. When we hit on
Tuesday and Wednesday, it was on, and it was far more hitting
than you would see in a game. Then we’d rest Thursday and
Friday. We’d have two days of rest before the game on Saturday.
Well, let me tell you what happened at the Rose Bowl. We
had four straight days—four straight days!—of pads. Bo was
not going to allow anybody to outwork him. That could have
been his Achilles heel in those bowl games. I assure you that
in all of those bowl games, he was never outworked. However,
I don’t think his teams played with legs. If they won, they were
winning on heart. They did not have fresh legs. Leading up
to the Rose Bowl that year, we had four straight hitting days.
We’d heard that we weren’t going to hit the following day so
that we could have three days of rest before the game. There
was at least one coach who prevailed upon Bo to scrimmage
more. His point was, “The reason that we’ve had so much futility
out there on grass is because our timing is off. We’re coming
from turf, and we’re going to grass, and it screws up our splits.
We have to tighten it up a little bit, and our timing is always
off. That’s why we lose.” I wanted us to go three days without
hitting so that we could be somewhat fresh for that game. We
didn’t know if we were going to hit until we showed up for
practice. Sure enough, we got our pads on, and we just kicked
the crap out of each other again. What happened was we had
five straight days of all out hitting, with the standard 48 hours
of rest before the bowl game.
When I woke up that day, January 1st, I felt like an old man.
I thought, holy crap, I’m sore. Anyway, I woke up that Rose
Bowl day, and I was sore from head to toe. A lot of that had to
do with going five incredibly hard practices with the standard
two days of rest. I have a swimmer’s background, and swimmers
taper for the Big Dance. Bo’s teams never tapered. He
never, ever tapered. The two days of rest were always there, but
it wasn’t sufficient for the team to be playing with fresh legs.
We had that debate up in the house with the guys, and they all
looked at me and said, “You know what, Q? You’re right. We
don’t taper, and we never tapered.”
That’s one of the problems you get with omnipotence.
When you get somebody who is omnipotent, like Bo—and he
was omnipotent—and you get surrounded with a bunch of
people who are inclined to say “yes” and not use some critical
thinking skills, there was nobody there to say, “Hey, Bo, time
out. We’ve done too much. We need to let these guys rest for
the game.” It didn’t happen. There was not a guy like that there.
We could have made it a better game. Or actually could
have won. Don’t get me wrong, Arizona State was a great team,
and their quarterback, Jeff Van Raaphorst, had a great day. He
was zipping in some passes that were right on our defenders’
fingertips and just getting through. There was one over one of
our cornerbacks, down in the end zone. I thought it was going
to be a pick-six—and it fluttered right through our guy’s fingertips,
right into the receiver’s hands for a touchdown. Here I am,
jacked up, thinking, oh, wow, we’ve got a pick-six. Then, bam,
there’s a touchdown the other way. With legs, those plays might
have—they could have—gone differently. Van Raaphorst had a
fantastic game, and that offensive line could have played in the
pros, all of them together. You could have plugged those guys
into the pros, and they would have done an adequate job.
The relationship between Bo and Jim was pretty special.
Did you ever hear what Reiny and Harbaugh did to Shemy’s
Nerf football? Shemy was Bo’s son, just a little rugrat running
around the complex, and he felt pretty comfortable in there.
Reiny and Harbaugh stole the Nerf football. Shemy always
had his football with him. They took some white athletic tape,
and they crawled on top of our lockers in the freshmen locker
room—we had a freshmen locker room and then there was the
varsity locker room. There were a bunch of pipes on the ceiling,
and Reiny and Harbaugh took the athletic tape and they taped
his Nerf football to the tallest pipe that they could find. It was
probably 12 or 13 feet off the ground. The poor kid couldn’t get
it, so he ran down and got his old man, dragged his old man
down to the freshmen locker room, and there is the Nerf football
taped to a pipe near the ceiling. What did Bo do? He shook
his head and did a 180. I’m sure he went and told one of the
trainers to make sure they got the ball down. There was no butt
chewing, no nothing.
Bo and Jim had similar personalities. If you had an opinion
that differed from either one of those two, you had better
be ready to defend it with vigor. Even if you did, most likely, if
it differed from their opinion, you were wrong. Or so it would
seem. There wasn’t a whole lot of “let’s agree to disagree” going
on back then.
Jim bought a lot of time when he wanted to throw the ball.
He was shifty when he got outside of the pocket, deceptively
so. There was a game where he just went off. It was against Illinois,
his fifth year. He put 69 points on the board. It was just
a barrage of nice pass after nice pass. We were getting gassed
running up and down the field after those big bombs. It was
something. That particular game stands out because we didn’t
typically see the passing game. We looked like Miami of Florida
there—for a game—putting up 69 with all kinds of big passes.
It was fun.
I felt horrible for Jim, watching him with the Bears, getting
beat by the PACKERS*. He was getting creamed, and he
kept getting up. I was just marveling at his resilience. I listened
to sports talk radio the next day, after Jim got his brains beat
out. A guy called in and said, “Yeah, well, if Jim wasn’t getting
his brains blown out, he could have led his receiver a little bit
better than he did on that one pass.” Are you kidding me? He
was lucky he was alive. The media and fans couldn’t see that
Jim was being helped up from the ground after every play, and
then he’d get even more abused on the next play. I suppose the
one time the line held, Jim wasn’t spot-on accurate with some
pass. Give me a break.
*In the early days, the Green Bay PACKERS played in a facility called
City Park. City Park had two men’s rooms, no ladies’ room.
I was at Michigan on a recruiting trip in January, and I
had never seen a football game at The Big House. There was
an assistant coach who was taking me around—Jerry Meter, a
very nice guy. He was the defensive line coach. It’s Meter and
I, and we’re going into the corner end zone away from the tunnel.
He just walked me in. The Big House is not imposing from
the outside—at least it wasn’t at the time. It’s different now,
because of the new construction, so it looks imposing with the
new press box and all the other boxes. But at the time, as you
walked in, it didn’t look like a gigantic structure. It’s deceiving,
because it’s dug into a hill. Then you walk in, and you see
this massive expanse of seats. It is just perfect. I looked at that,
and I had ridiculous warm fuzzies. I just thought that was perfection.
This was in January. It was windy and cold. I’m from
Wisconsin, so it was no big deal. I was looking at this stadium,
and I just fell in love with it. I said, “Yeah, man, this looks like
perfection.” The size. The scale. It’s a fantastic place. You just
have to experience it.
Jim is going to do well as Michigan’s head coach. I’ve got
an email chain with Reiny and another buddy, Rick Peterson,
who we went to school with. Two weeks before the announcement
from Jim, there was vigorous conjecture going on in the
email chain among the three of us. I wrote, “You know what
guys? I think he’s coming.” They were like, “Why do you think
he’s coming?” I wrote, “The thing that stands out is that Jim
is smart enough to know—and he’s diplomatic enough to
know—that his name is bandied about for this gig. If he isn’t
interested, he’d have backed off immediately, just out of courtesy
to Jim Hackett and his search committee. He’d say, ‘I’m
going to stay in the NFL’ or, ‘I’m going to go to x, y or z college.’
He’s said nothing. His silence speaks volumes to me. He hasn’t
said no. He hasn’t discounted the option.” It would have been a
lousy situation for him to have gone and left Hackett dangling
for two or three weeks, if he knew all along that he wasn’t going
to go. I interpreted his silence as he’s coming, guys.
You put some other perspective in there. Jim loved Stanford,
because he was out there when he was in high school.
He coached there. Jim’s team for the NFL was the 49ers. He
coached there. What’s the next rung in that ladder? Don’t
think for a moment that coaching at Michigan is a step down,
because it’s one of the best gigs going out there, period. Coaching
at Michigan is as big as any NFL gig you’re going to name,
in my opinion. This completes his equation. It would be nice
to see him coach at Michigan for a good 15 years. It’s going to
I sent Jim an invitation to my daughter’s graduation party
in June, and he sent her a very nice graduation card. She was
thrilled. He put his cell phone number in there, but I cut that
off, because with these girls and social media, the last thing
I needed was for her to post a picture of this graduation card
from Jim with that cell phone number all over cyberspace. She
was thrilled to get his card.
Jim Harbaugh has brought a lot of laughter and fun into
my life, even when I was ready to kill him. He needs to improve
his taste for fashion and music, though.
JIM HARBAUGH WAS A
HUMAN RED BULL
Jamie Morris is the career receptions leader for running
backs at Michigan. He set U-M records for most yards rushing
in a season (1,703) and for a career (4,392).
It was weird. I first met Jim out on the field. We were
in a huddle. He shook my hand and introduced himself,
“Jim Harbaugh.” I said, “Jamie Morris.” Then we ran plays.
Bo wanted to put together the guys
he was going to play together. He made the whole offense go
over to the sidelines, and he called the names of players he
wanted to see together. He called Harbaugh, and then he called
the fullback. Then he called my name. Just listening to Jim in
the huddle, it was incredible. He took a very commanding role.
It was like, “Hey, this is my huddle.” He took over. Then, as we
grew together my sophomore and junior years, his junior and
senior years, you could see him become the coach on the field.
He knew what every person was supposed to do, and he could
tell you what every person was supposed to do.
If you screwed up, he got into you. He lit into wide receivers.
He lit into everyone who screwed up. He would let you
know if you did something wrong. But I’m going to just say this,
nine times out of 10, if you had Jim Harbaugh on your team,
you knew you were going to win that game.
You could just see his determination. He always wanted a
long drive. There was a helmet decal we could get if we could
do a drive over 80 yards. Real men didn’t throw the ball. You
know how Bo Schembechler was: “We’re just going to ram it
down their throat. We’re going to run it down their throat.”
That was the mandate at the time. It was Jim Harbaugh who
pushed that. He’d say, “All right, let’s have a 12-play drive. Let’s
have a 12-play drive!” As a running back, you’re like, “Wow!”
You loved that attitude. You loved everything about it.
You loved his fire. We had the same fire, but everybody would
show their emotions. He would show his emotions. He wore
his heart on his sleeve as a player, and you can see he wears it
as a coach, too.
I was hopeful that Jim would take the Michigan job once it
was clear that Brady Hoke wasn’t going to be here. First of all,
pride came into it, because that’s the guy I played with. That’s
my quarterback. Of course you want that guy—you want him.
He’s been successful everywhere he’s been, so you want him
to come back, come home again. The program was down. You
want him to take the program back to that level.
The quarterbacks I played with in the pros—Doug Williams
and Mark Rypien—were dropback passers. Jimmy is a
dropback quarterback, but he could run, too. He could take off
and run when things broke down. Most quarterbacks knew if
it wasn’t there—eat the ball, throw the ball away. Jimmy is not
going to waste a down. He was a great passer. He had a great
There was a time when Jim got mad at a practice. Bo would
get mad, and he would say, “Son of a b—-. Son of a b—-.” Jim
was so mad that he started swearing. Bo yelled at him, “Harbaugh,
I’ll do the cussing here, not you.” I’ve seen him really
angry when we lost a game we were supposed to win. We lost
to MINNESOTA* in his senior year, in ’86. As Bo would say, we
*Bruce Smith, the 1941 Heisman Trophy winner from MINNESOTA,
was nominated for sainthood by a Father Cantwell, and his application
is still on file at the Vatican.
were thinking ahead, thinking about the Ohio State game. We
didn’t have our heads in the game, and we lost that game. I
could sense that Jim Harbaugh was upset, too.
After we beat Ohio State in ‘86, we had a game against
the University of Hawaii. We took the athletic campus with
us to Hawaii for a week. It was crazy. Bo was saying, “This is
not a holiday trip. This is not a bowl trip, gentlemen. We are
going there to play football.” I’ll never forget that, because
the NCAA—as dumb as they are nowadays, they were even
dumber back then. You couldn’t have a stopover, so we took a
flight from Detroit to Honolulu. We had to fly direct there. Then
we got off the plane and everybody went to the hotel except for
the players. They took us straight to the stadium, and Bo made
us run two miles in the stadium to get us tired. “You guys don’t
want to go out tonight, do you?” he said.
I’ve got to tell you that Michigan fans are expecting a lot
in 2015. They are really expecting. Oh my god, the euphoria.
This is a spoiled fan base, and they are expecting a 10-win season,
but they would be content with a seven- or eight-game
winning season, too. They’re thinking Jim Harbaugh is going to
come in here and fix everything—make guys run faster, jump
higher, play better football. It’s the athletes that we bring in.
I can see the difference in the athletes and the recruits that
Jimmy is bringing in and is recruiting, as opposed to the years
before. You can see the difference.
Between you, me and the fencepost, when Jim Harbaugh
goes out and signs a fifth-year senior, that tells you
something. They just don’t bring in a fifth-year senior transfer
from Iowa (Jake Rudock) and expect him to sit the bench
and just be here, right? This fan base is starving for a winning
coach. As I said, this team will improve. By how much?
I give it two or three more wins. They won five games last
year, so if they win two or three more games, they’re 8-4, 8-5.
Eight-and-four is not a bad year. It’s a BOWL GAME*. It takes you
down to Florida.
Jim is between a rock and a hard place. He’s got Lansing to
the north of him, and he’s got Columbus to the south of him—
and both of those schools aren’t afraid to go over that line
every now and then. I’m not even worried about Brian Kelly.
We don’t play Notre Dame—as Bo would say, “The hell with
Jim was the guy that was a bridge between players—
offense and defense, black players and white players. He tried
to get along with all of the players.
*The longest running BOWL GAME no longer played is the Bluebonnet
Bowl, which called it quits after 29 years.
WHERE THE PAST IS PRESENT
Jerry Hanlon was Jim Harbaugh’s quarterback coach at Michigan. Hanlon
was the only assistant to coach on the Michigan staff during all of Bo
Schembechler’s 21 years in The Big House. Hanlon retired from coaching
and still lives in Ann Arbor. He said, “I still live in the same house I moved
into in 1969. I couldn’t afford to move in and now I can’t afford to move out.”
At the time I didn’t think it was a privilege, but I did have
the privilege of coaching Jimmy. Everybody asks me what he’s
like. I say, “Well, he was the hardest and the easiest kid I ever
coached.” By that, I mean that in one sense he was a thorough
listener. He would do what you told him. He was very, very
dedicated to everything we were trying to do. He was a great
teammate. But in the other sense, he was so competitive and
so wanting to do everything himself and do it right, that he
got almost obnoxious with that attitude. So he was a study in
contrasts. But I certainly have grown to really have a great relationship
Jack Harbaugh coached here, and Jim was raised on the
Michigan football field. He and Johnny, you had to kick them
out of your drills so they didn’t hurt some of your players. They
were always around. They were always trying to get involved.
He had a better idea of what Michigan was like. He started out
here in Ann Arbor at Pioneer High School. When Jack went to
California, Jim ended up playing at Palo Alto High School. We
thought that if we could get him back here and just show him
what we had, not from a standpoint of facilities or things like
that, but the opportunities that were going to be here, that we
might have a good shot at him. Jack, of course, was in our corner,
too. We had a kid here, Stevie Smith, and Steve Smith was
one of the best athletes we ever had at Michigan. He was a very
talented quarterback. He was going to be a senior when Jim
came in as a freshman. It was the idea that Jim was going to
come in and watch his freshman year and then be able to take
over after Steve graduated. We didn’t really have a great deal of
depth at that position at the time. The fact that he was going to
have an opportunity to come in and contribute early was also
a factor in his coming to Michigan.
Steve Smith played senior year. I could talk for hours about
him. He was really a great athlete. We had success with him.
Certainly, he was a different type of quarterback than Jimmy
Harbaugh was going to be. Steve could throw the ball, but he
was very quick, was a very good runner. We could run with the
option if we wanted to, whereas Jim was a little bit more of a
pure drop back, handoff quarterback—although I did make
him run the option. But, anyway, Jim was going to be a different
type of quarterback, and we knew that primarily we were
going to have to change our offensive strategy when Jimmy
became the quarterback. That was a challenge for us, but it was
also a challenge for him to allow us to do it.
A number of things made Harbaugh good. Genes, No. 1.
He came from very good parents, I’ll guarantee you that. Jack
and Jackie raised him the right way. Jim had not just athletic
genes, but he had the intelligence and the attitude that allows
you to be a great athlete. That was No. 1. Jimmy was the most
competitive athlete—or at least one of the most competitive
athletes—that I’ve ever coached. That competitiveness really
drove him to try to be the best he could, but he had a little
problem with it. He wanted everybody to be just as competitive
as he was, and that just wasn’t possible for kids. Jimmy
and I had a little problem—not a problem, but a situation. I, of
course, knew him from the time he was a kid, knew his mom
and dad and aunts and uncles and everybody. I was close with
their family. As he became my quarterback during the preseason,
his competitiveness started to show. He would throw a
ball down the field, and it would be 15 yards over the receiver’s
head. The receiver would run toward it and know he couldn’t
get it. He’d stop and come back and get ready for another play.
Jimmy would go over and start hollering, “I don’t know why
you stopped. You should have kept running. You should have
dove for the ball,” because that’s what Jimmy would have done.
He would have ran and dove on the ground, even though he
couldn’t have caught it. He was going to make an effort. But
he would holler at some of our receivers and people who
were running the routes, and they didn’t particularly take too
well to that. One day, I called him into the office and I said,
“Listen, who’s the quarterback on this team?” He said, “I am,
Coach.” I said, “Who’s the coach on this team?” He looked at
me and said, “You are.” I said, “Okay, then you quarterback,
and I’ll coach. Now do you understand that?” He looked at me
and just said, “Yes, I understand it.” He got up and walked out.
From that time on, we talked football. Everything I said about
football, he listened. He paid attention. He didn’t miss a beat.
But as far as any social talk, like how’s the family, how’s Mom
and Dad, or how’s Ann, my wife, we had none of that. It was all
business and nothing else.
Along about the seventh or eighth game of the season,
we were going to play Purdue. I’m sitting in my office and the
door opened. Jim came in, closed the door, sat down, and said,
“Coach, I don’t like this.” I said, “What are you talking about?”
He said, “You know what I mean. I don’t like this. We’re not
talking like we should, like we used to. Now I understand what
you were trying to say. I understand what you were talking
about. But I don’t want to be like this.” From that day on, we
developed a really close relationship that has existed right up
until today. I followed his progress after he left Michigan. I’d
go over to preseason practice in Chicago. Mike Ditka would hit
me in the rear end with a golf cart and say, “Get in here.” We’d
ride around and watch practice. I went a couple of times when
Jim was in Chicago.
I don’t know what makes one kid competitive and another
kid ultracompetitive. If I knew that, I’d be able to go out and put
it all into one kid, every kid. It comes from his upbringing. Jim
and his brother, Johnny, were reared together and competed
against each other in everything that they did. They always
were trying to outdo each other, and it carried right over into
the coaching profession. Johnny’s a little bit more laid back,
and Jim’s a little bit more outgoing. That’s just something that’s
part of your gene makeup, I guess. I’m not a professional doctor,
but that has some part in it. You can develop it. I don’t
know how far you can get them to go, but you can make kids
competitive. You can challenge them and reward them. That’s
part of what you’re trying to do as a coach. You challenge them
and make them competitive. When they do something good,
you reward them, pat them on the back. That’s the idea of what
coaching is all about. I had to pat Jimmy on the back. I didn’t
have to make him competitive, that’s for sure.
I thought Bo Schembechler was going to shoot me a number
of times. I was in the press box calling plays, and he would
be on the phone on the field. Anything that Jim did wrong, Bo
blamed on me. Being the quarterback coach, I got blamed for
it. Jimmy not only was competitive, but he would take chances
on the field. He would go back to throw a pass, and if it wasn’t
open, he’d start to run around. He’d scramble to the right, and
he’d scramble to the left, and then he’d be running backward.
On the phone, I was hearing, “Hanlon, can’t you teach that kid
anything? My god, look where he is, oh, my god.” Then, “Oh,
whadda great play! Wow, whadda touchdown!” I had to put up
with that with Jim because he would innovate when he’d get
in a bad situation. It worked most of the time because he was
smart enough to know to get rid of the ball when he should
and to make a play when he could. He had a little bit more latitude
to do that back there than you might want with some kids,
because he was really an intelligent football player. He knew
what we were trying to do.
That was one of the things that made him a favorite of
mine. He fit into what we were trying to do so well, because
of him being an intelligent player. I always wanted to run an
offense that the defense tells you you’re supposed to run. In
other words, you don’t go to the line of scrimmage and guess.
You look at the defense, and it tells you what you want to do.
He had a lot of latitude at the line of scrimmage to call the plays
we should run and how we should block it or where we should
throw a pass and all those things. It was built into our offense,
and it took a lot of time and effort to learn that and then execute
it. Jimmy certainly gave me the latitude to do the things
that I wanted to do as a quarterback coach, because he could
pick up on them and use them, and we became a very, very
effective offense because of that.
Jim Harbaugh dips tobacco. I tried to get him out of the
habit. I told him a long time ago to get rid of that stuff. I said,
“Next thing you know, you’re going to kiss your wife or your
kids, and you won’t have a lower lip. Now what do you think
Fifteen years ago, I got a call from Jack, and he said,
“Jerry, what are you doing the second week in January?” I
said, “Jack, I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow, let alone
the second week in January.” He said, “Listen, keep it open.” I
said, “Why?” Jimmy was at that time coaching at the University
of San Diego. He said, “Jimmy’s going to coach an all-star
game in LAS VEGAS*, and he wants you to be his offensive line
coach.” I said, “I’m not working for that little you know what.”
He said, “No, he wants you to see how he’s developed as a
*In 2007, Michigan became the first Top-5 team to drop out of the
Top-25 after just a single loss, when Appalachian State beat the
Wolverines, 34-32. Appalachian State was the first FCS team to defeat
a ranked FBS team. LAS VEGAS casinos had no line on the game.
coach. He really would like that.” I said, “Jack, I’d love to.” We
went out to Las Vegas and coached a group of college seniors
who weren’t quite good enough to make it at the other all-star
games. It was East versus West. The pros put it on and paid
for it. The scouts tested them and watched them practice. We
coached them to play the game. I was Jimmy’s offensive line
coach, and we had a great time. I enjoyed it. We had fun. We
made out our practice schedules and did all the other things.
It was probably halfway through the first quarter, a little bit
maybe into the second quarter, and Jim came to me and said,
“What do you think?” My line wasn’t doing very well. I said,
“Will you quit throwing the ball all over the ballpark and line
up and run it?” He turned, looked at me and he said, “My god,
some things never change.” So we did. We started buckling up.
From then, we beat the heck out of the other team. That was
enjoyable. Jack was the head coach of the other team, and we
Jack knew better than to try to tell me what to do when Jim
was at Michigan. Jack was so tied up in his own little coaching
bailiwicks that he couldn’t get back for many of the games. He
did get to a couple of bowl games. Jack didn’t see Jim play very
much at Michigan, but Jackie used to come to the games every
once in a while. I told her it was just to get away from Jack, it
wasn’t to see Jim. I coached with Jack at Michigan. Jack was
really a good football coach. He had a great rapport with kids.
Kids loved to play for him. The biggest thing was, I told him he
didn’t know anything about football, because I went to Miami
of Ohio, and Jack went to Bowling Green. We were great rivals,
Bowling Green and Miami. I told him he went to a school that
didn’t know anything about football and never gave anybody
Back in those days, it was different than it is today. We
didn’t make all these million dollars and thousands and
thousands of dollars. We were lucky to have enough money
to keep the food on the table with our families. Our idea of a
big celebration was to go to each other’s house after a football
victory and have everybody bring something to eat, a couple
of beers. That’s how we celebrated. We would go to different
houses, and Jack and Jackie, of course, were on that list. You’d
go there, and we always had a great time. We went to each other’s
houses, and that’s how we became so close. We became
not just close as coaches, but our families got to know each
other a whole lot better that way. The wives met and commiserated
and said how bad they had it and how good the coaches
had it. Jack and I used to argue about the CLEVELAND INDIANS*,
too. That’s for sure. I grew up near Cincinnati, so I was a big
*In 1958, Vic Power of the CLEVELAND INDIANS was the last player
to steal home twice in one game, which he did against the Detroit
Tigers. Power had only one other steal the entire year.
THE DAYS ARE LONG,
THE YEARS ARE SHORT
John Kolesar made two of the most famous catches in
Michigan football history. The first one was a 77-yarder
from Jim Harbaugh when he was a true freshman,
against Ohio State. Even though he was from the
Cleveland area—and still lives there—and Ohio State coveted
him, he followed his father’s footsteps by playing for the Wolverines.
Kolesar has been in the Internet security business for 20
years, protecting the world from hackers for Fox Technologies.
I can’t believe it’s been almost 30 years. I was joking with
my wife. We’ve been together, 16, 17 years now, married. The
days are long, the years are fast. We have four kids: a senior, a
freshman, a sixth grader, and a second grader, age seven. We
had them a little later. We’re going to be busy for awhile.
When I first met Jim, I was a wet-behind-the-ears freshman.
In the Michigan program, if you’re a freshman, you’re
seen and not heard. The senior leadership and the way Bo ran
those teams was pretty spelled out. I worked hard and did what
I could. I was able to play as a freshman, which didn’t happen
as often in those days as it does now. Bo threw only on
third-and-forever. My freshman year, I averaged 28 yards on
What happened in our relationship was the trust factor
after the ’85 Illinois game. We had only one loss against Iowa.
We go to Illinois, and tied 3-3. As much as I could, as a freshman,
I’d go back to the huddle and tell Jimmy, “Hey, man,
I’m open. I’ve got man-to-man coverage on me every play.
I’m wide open.” He didn’t throw it to me that entire game. We
watched the film the next day. Bo let Jim know that I was open!
Jim probably figured, hey, this kid can run some routes. He got
open. He was wide open. Why am I not throwing it to him?
For the ‘85 game against Ohio State, it was a late start day
game that turned into a night game at Michigan Stadium. It
was real cold, a little drizzly. I was shaking and shivering in the
huddle. It was that cold out on the field. Ohio State had just
scored. Cris Carter made a great leaping catch in the end zone.
A quick momentum switch their way. It was seven or eight
minutes into the fourth quarter. CBS had all the shots right
on the line of scrimmage. That’s why there isn’t good video on
that play. Jim called the play. Typically, when we called plays
back then, they were a combination running/pass audibles. It
would sound something like, “2324, roll 366.” What that means
is, 2324 is a running play, left or right, and then roll 366 is the
pass. Jim would look at the defensive front. He would look at
the coverage, and then he would select a play based on what
he saw. Does he go left? Does he go right with the run, or does
he think he can throw the pass? The pass was a “6-route” that
I was running. The “6-route” was a post run in our scheme.
Typically, the way he read it was, I was the first read, and then
he went across left to right to the tight end, to the split end and
to the back. Oftentimes, I’m just getting into my route, and he’s
already looked me off because I’m not into my route enough
and he can’t read the coverage. So he’s going off to his second
read. In that case, in that play, they had the corner blitz, the
strong safety blitz. He read that. He saw the corner sit on me.
He has to trust that I’m going to take this over the top, which I
did, and he lofted it out to me. That was the trust from that Illinois
game, from the Purdue game. He knew I had some speed.
William White, who later played in the NFL, was a tremendous
defensive back for Ohio State. He thought I was going to
do an “out” route. Earlier in the game, we had another drive
where we had two third downs-and-long. Jimmy had thrown
two “out” routes to me for first downs. White was sitting on the
route, thinking that I was going to do an “out” route so he could
break on it. But we just went over the top of him, and it was a
perfect call at a perfect time and a perfect pass and a perfect
night, the way we came back and shut the door on Ohio State’s
comeback. Jim threw a perfect pass.
When I saw that ball coming toward me, it’s like any
receiver seeing a ball coming in the air, trying to catch a brown
ball against a dark blue sky in the middle of the night with a
little bit of rain coming at you. All sorts of things go through
your mind. The most important things are just the fundamentals—
keep running, keep your eye on the ball and get your
hands out there. First and foremost, catch that football. I was
wearing contacts, and as I was looking back and running, the
wind caught in my eye and the contact got folded up. I was
basically one-eyed, trying to look at this ball. I actually lost it
a little bit, because I’m blinking as I’m running. But all that
goes back to how you catch a football and those little drills
you do in your bed at night, throwing the ball up in the air and
catching it, throwing the ball up in the air and catching it. You
know where that ball’s going to land, even if you lose sight of
it. If the defender puts his hand in your FACE*, you still have a
good idea where that ball is going to be. Unfortunately, it was
dark. There were portable lights. Everybody made a big deal
about the so-called first night game at Michigan, which was
in 2013 against Notre Dame. That ’85 game was really the first
night game. It was well after 5 o’clock in the second half and in
Michigan in November, it’s dark at 5 o’clock. We had portable
lights, and they set them up on the corners. If you’re running a
post route and you’re looking back at the quarterback, you’re
looking directly into the southeast portable lights. You had
that complexity. There was a lot that could have gone wrong.
*The FACE of the New England Patriots’ logo is modeled after Elvis
Presley….In 1968, the Patriots played a regular season game in
Fortunately, the training and the way we’re taught and the repetition
that we had in practice, all contribute to you performing
and doing your job. My job was to catch that football, and that
was the first thing that I did. After I caught it, then I just ran for
the pylon. I got on my wheels and went downhill.
I had no idea that 30 years later, they’d still be talking
about that play. It’s like fish stories. They get bigger and bigger
as they go. It was a tremendous thrill for me. Most of my life,
being raised in Ohio, my dad going to Michigan, I was always
a Michigan fan. Half of my school pictures, I had a Michigan
shirt on. To come in as a freshman and to play against a great
Ohio State team and to be in an integral play of that victory was
like a dream. It takes 11 guys on the field to execute that play
and at that point, we had a quarterback named Jim Harbaugh
who made it happen. He led the Big Ten in passing efficiency,
even though we weren’t a big throwing team.
I wasn’t in touch with Jim when he went to the Bears for
lots of reasons. He’s got his season, and we’ve got our season.
You’re in the same season. You can’t go watch each other play.
Even the teammates that I played with that don’t go pro, we
all come from different places. Life happens and all of a sudden
when you come see each other again for reunions, it’s just
like yesterday. It’s no different with my relationship with Jim. I
played in the NFL with Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar. Jim is the
best quarterback I ever played with. Jim Kelly is a tremendous
competitor and is in the Hall of Fame. What he’s missing is what
Jim Harbaugh had, that “it” factor, that confidence factor that
brings the other teammates to that Promised Land. There’s just
something there. You knew that he had the confidence that he
was going to do it.
People make fun of Jim’s 1985 guarantee against Ohio
State. I don’t look at it that way. Maybe it was a poor choice of
words, but I understand exactly where he’s coming from. He
was going to win that game, as simple as that. It’s not cocky. It’s
just the way he commanded himself to do things. I’d take him
in a heartbeat as a quarterback, just because of the experience
that I had with him.
I didn’t interact with him very much over the last 25 years,
but when I sit down with him, it’s just like yesterday. Jim was
influenced by some of the greatest football minds in the history
of the game: Bo, his Dad, Ditka and Ted Marchibroda. All
that stuff is in his DNA now and that’s immeasurable. That’s
why I’m excited for these Michigan recruits to experience that.
That’s why I said I’d play for him. I’d coach with him, and I’d
have my kid play for him. He’s all about football, the good football,
Jack Harbaugh and I are likeminded in many ways. He
was coaching at Western. He could hardly get to many of our
games, maybe one, depending on how that worked out. When
I see the Harbaughs to this day, they’re family to me. It’s just
one of those things. I see Jackie. Certainly John, the thing about
John and Jim, my brother played at Miami of Ohio. John was
his teammate. A couple of years ago, my brother and I were
watching the Super Bowl, the Brothers’ Bowl, right, when John
and Jim were coaching. It was funny. Twenty-five years later,
my brother played with John, and I played with Jim. They’re
coaching the Super Bowl, and my brother and I are just VPs
of sales for a company. I said to my brother, “It’s kind of the
same thing. We’re basically coaching. We’re just in a different
We had Mass before each game. Jim was there and everybody
else who was Catholic. Because I was the freshman, I had
to do the reading. We played Notre Dame my first game in ‘85.
That was Gerry Faust’s last season. I did the reading, and we
won. Because we had won, I was considered good luck, so I did
the reading for the rest of the year for the Mass as a good luck
charm. That carried on to next year, the good luck charm, and
we won all those games, too, until I broke my collarbone.
I see it every day when I work and do things, the people
I try to hire. When I work and try to coach people, it’s almost
frowned upon. I’ve got to be careful about what I say, how I say
it, when I say it to get people just to do their jobs. Just to tell
them what it is to be excellent, what it is to do that. It is frustrating.
When I look to hire, I try to find an athlete that played
football. I try to find Marines. They’re the only people left that
I’ve got four kids with college educations to fund. I still do
it. Even if it falls on deaf ears, I can’t help but do it. I can’t help
getting up early. I can’t help to do some work. I can’t help putting
a full day in and then some. I can’t do it any other way. I
don’t know how. I’m a disciple of that system, Woody Hayes,
Bo, Jimmy Harbaugh. My playing field is selling, that’s what I
do. We all can’t be head coach of Michigan. We all want to be.
For whatever reason, we take our career paths and go where
we need to go.
It’s a special thing. The thing that Harbs created this year,
who got it better than us? Nobody, and I echo that. It’s an experience
that lasts a lifetime. Part of it is because it’s fleeting. It is
because it’s only four or five years. You’ve just got to do it.
ALL IT TAKES IS ALL YA GOT
John Duerr’s childhood was in Southern California, but he graduated from
St. Alphonsus High School in Dearborn, Mich., before walking on at Michigan.
Duerr lives in Auburn Hills and works for Chappell Steel Co. in Detroit.
Hardly a day goes by that somebody—a customer of mine,
a friend, whoever—doesn’t ask, “Well, is Harbaugh going to do
it? Is he going to get that place turned around?” The answer is
yes, not because he coached in the NFL or because he coached
at Stanford. It’s because of what he learned at Michigan. One
thing I know for a fact is you’re going to see effort, tenacity.
You’re not going to see guys mail in a block. Just like we
learned from Bo, you’re not going to see guys start game in and
game out if they aren’t performing. That has happened a little
bit too much for our liking. I’m sure that Jim learned it from his
dad, and all of the coaches that he was around, and his older
brother, John—everything that he absorbed when he was a kid.
I was there with Jim three years, and under Bo for four. I
went on to coach HIGH SCHOOL* football. Everything that I know
about football, I learned from those guys, the same teachers
that Jim had. Now, he is 1,000 times more advanced than I am,
but I don’t care what level you’re at—you’ve got to be tough.
You’ve got to bust your butt. You can’t mail in a block. You
can’t sulk. Those are the things that Jim learned. That’s why
*In 2012, four million HIGH SCHOOL students played tackle football
with no fatalities. In the same year, 30 skateboarders died, eight
students died in gym class, six more on the playgrounds. In 1968,
there were 36 football fatalities.
Michigan football is going to be good, because they’re going to
do it the right way. There is no alternative.
We had seven-on-sevens in the summer of ‘86, and we had
off-season workouts. There wasn’t a lot of talking. It was just go
do it. You were expected to do it. Go do it. Guys like Harbaugh
and Jim Scarcelli, they held people accountable. You didn’t
even need the coaches around. Those guys would make sure
that you were living up to the standard, and if you weren’t, they
were going to call you out. That was the thing that made all of
these guys who played at Michigan successful in winning titles
like they did.
My junior year, we played in Hawaii after the Ohio State
game. Scarcelli and Harbaugh and I were at a place, and he
asked these girls at the bar, “You know who that guy looks like?
Who does that look like?” He says I look like Huey Lewis, so he
liked to introduce me as Huey Lewis’ cousin.
Jim’s senior year—it would have been the ’86 season—
right around the time when we started camp. At that time, we
voted on captains. We’re at dinner in South Quad. We’re at
dinner with all of the guys—you just gravitate to the guys that
you hang out with, whether it’s your roommate or guys who
play the same position as you. I always ate with the same guys,
the Stites brothers, Don Lessner, Scott Harrala, Kyle Anderson,
this group of walk-ons. We’re sitting at our same dinner
table that we sat at all of the time. Lo and behold, Harbaugh
pulls up a chair to eat with us. Well, we both were captains a
few days after that. We all thought that was peculiar, that he
would choose that day to sit down with a bunch of walk-ons.
The Stites boys called him out and he swore he was just looking
for a place to sit.
When Harbaugh was coaching at San Diego, there was a
guy I worked with whose grandson was a good football player.
I emailed Jim and said, “Hey, I got a guy here that might be the
guy you’re looking for.” Jim emailed back, “I need tough guys.
I need good students, tough guys.” The kid ended up playing
lacrosse for Penn State.
I teach my kids things Bo taught me and things I learned
playing football as part of a team—the whole team concept. I
preach to my kids that you have to remember that the world
doesn’t revolve around you. At some point, you’re going to be
part of a company or a team, and you’re going to be responsible
for a certain aspect that the whole team’s success is based
on you doing your job. It doesn’t matter what job you have. It
doesn’t matter what company you work for. It doesn’t matter
what you do. You have a responsibility for the betterment of
the team, and if you don’t do your job, the team is not going to
succeed. I’m glad that I got that experience around those people,
in that stadium, on that campus. Michigan runs through
my blood, and I try to pass it onto my kids.
I still hang out with those guys, those walk-ons that I told
you about, that sat at the table where Harbaugh came. Those
guys, we all still hang out. If I’m up in Ann Arbor, I’ll call and
we’ll go to lunch. One of the guys lives in CINCINNATI*, and
when I’m down there on business, I stay at his place. The other
guy is here locally and we go and hunt together. On November
15, all of us get together over by Grand Rapids and have
hunt camp. I bring my son and he gets to enjoy these guys that
I played football with 30 years ago. I wouldn’t trade a second
of what we had to do to make it. These guys mean that much to
me. The experience that we went through together means that
much. I love them.
The greatest play I ever saw Harbaugh make was that
77-yard TD pass to John Kolesar in ‘85 against Ohio State. He
stood there in the pocket and took a shot right in the head as
*In May of 2003, David Horton, 24, a fugitive from justice, took a date
to Great America Ballpark in CINCINNATI to watch the Reds. He and
his date were shown on the Kiss Cam, his parole officer was at the
game, he was arrested in his seat.
he released the ball. Kolesar was running toward the north end
zone and caught that ball. That’s the loudest I have ever heard
Michigan Stadium. That was beautiful, man. That play was just
phenomenal. What a great pass, under pressure, in a big game
like that. Man.
My old teammate, Mike Reinhold, was moved from linebacker
to nose guard. He said, “You know the difference
between linebacker and nose guard? Nose guard is you’re at
a party every day that you ain’t invited to.” I never forgot that
line. I used to tell that to every kid I had who played nose guard:
“You’re going to a party and you ain’t invited.” He was a good
guy. Reiny was a good guy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Who was the only Major League Baseball player to grace the cover of
the college football edition of Sports Illustrated? Bo Jackson? No. Kirk
Gibson? No. Rick Leach of Michigan? Yes.
In the 1983 Holiday Bowl, Brigham Young University quarterback Steve
Young caught the winning touchdown pass in a 21-17 victory over
DOWN AT THE CORNER OF
WHAT AND IF
Thomas Wilcher is a very successful head coach in football and
track & field at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. He was a
running back for U-M from 1982-86 and an NCAA indoor track
champion in the 55-meter hurdles.
My memories of Jim are that he’s a hard worker. Time on
task. A straightforward guy. Always doing the right thing. We
really started talking on the first day in the locker room. We
had a few guys that were from the South in the locker room,
too. They were white guys, Caucasian guys. Jim Harbaugh and
Andy Moeller had to smooth those guys over, because for some
of the guys, it was their first time interacting with blacks at that
level. It was a culture shock for them. I remember Jim talking to
the guys, smoothing it out, trying to create a team atmosphere.
In the huddle Jim, was, “Let’s get it guys. Let’s get this on.
Let’s go.” He was like that. Straightforward. Have a breakdown?
Got to get this third down. “Come on, let’s get this. Let’s make
this play. Come on. Let’s get it.” He’d clench up his fist in the
huddle and say, “Come on, let’s get this. We’ve got this, guys.”
The most disappointing thing I did when playing with Jim
was when we played Iowa in ‘85. Iowa was ranked No. 1 in
country, and we were ranked second. We lost the game, 12-10.
Late in the game, we needed about five yards for the first down,
and Jim threw the ball at me. I turned to the right, but I was
really supposed to turn to the left. I turned and the ball was
coming. I went across my body to try to catch it and it flicked
off my hands, off my shoulder pad, and I missed it. That was
probably one of my most disappointing plays. We didn’t get
the first down. We were driving the ball, and that stopped the
drive. I don’t even remember going back toward the sideline,
toward everybody. I went back toward the end of the bench.
I don’t know if I even talked to anybody coming back home,
because I was so disappointed. It was a catchable pass, but I
just opened up the wrong way. The ball came to the right spot.
That’s what happened. That was the game. I felt terrible, but
Jim refused to blame me for anything.
Later, when I was grown, I was driving down the freeway
and Bo spotted me. He started blowing his horn, and he pulled
me over. He just started hugging me, on the freeway. He just
kept hugging me, telling me how glad he was to see me, how
glad he was that I was doing all these great things in the city of
Detroit, how glad he was that I was coaching. He just kept telling
me, “Just keep doing it.” He just kept praising me. I didn’t
think it was any big deal.
Whenever I saw Bo, he always talked about how proud he
was of me and everything. He would talk about how we’d make
special plays in practice, and he was always shocked at what
I could do. He would always talk about that. I still talk to Bo’s
son, Shemy. Shemy talks to me like he knows everything about
me. Shemy is a really good guy.
When you look at Jim Harbaugh, every place he’s been, he
turned everybody around. San Francisco wasn’t going to the
doggone Super Bowl. They got him, and guess what? He turned
it around. All I’m trying to say is that sometimes people have to
be ready for what you ask for, and you have to stand back and
watch it. When you get ready to paint a picture, sometimes you
stand back and get your thoughts—and then you start painting
that picture. People try to figure out what you’re doing—what
are you doing, what are you doing, what are you doing? Then
they step back and gaze at it. Ah, I see it. Ah, I like it. That’s Jim
After he took the Michigan job, it was probably a few days
before Jim called me. He was real busy. We talked about family
and kids, our vision. We talked about some different things
I was still doing—what was my vision, my goal? What was my
high school’s vision? Did I have any vision for college and all of
that? That’s what we talked about, really.
I would love to coach in college. I would love for a coach to
say, “Hey, Coach Wilcher, we’d love to have you on our STAFF*.”
I’d love to do that. That takes time, though.
I know for a fact that Jim will turn it around here, because
he’s trying to find the tools right away. He’s not trying to implement
something too hard. He’s trying to implement something
that’s going to be simple. The most important thing to do when
you’re trying to be successful is not implement something
that’s hard, but implement something that’s simple for the
team to grasp onto. Make sure the team can figure it out so they
can go wholeheartedly into it at 120 percent, full speed ahead.
You want to keep it simple.
*“You can’t afford to have one bad coach on your STAFF.”
— Jim Harbaugh
HOOPS: THERE IT IS
Tony Gant is from Fremont, Ohio, home of Rob Lytle and Charles
Woodson. Gant was awarded the James A. Rhodes Trophy as
the most outstanding high school football player in Ohio in his
senior season, beating out Bernie Kosar and Keith Byars.
I’ll tell you a story about Jim’s competitiveness. We were
juniors, playing pickup basketball at the IM Building. It’s my
fourth or fifth pickup game. I’m scoring about a third of my
team’s points. Harbaugh walks in. He watched a couple of our
games. Immediately, he wanted to cover me—just to see if he
could shut me down—because he knew that I was doing all of
the scoring. He had some success. I’m not going to give him
all the credit. He was just right up on me. He wouldn’t let me
shoot the ball. He was just so determined to shut me down and
keep me from scoring. That’s his competitive nature.
Those very first times Jim and I met or had an interaction
with each other—obviously we’re freshmen, sharing the same
locker room. We are going into the training room to get our
legs taped, so we’ve got to shave our legs with a razor. I accidentally
dropped the razor or shears, or whatever you want to
call them, and they fell on Harbaugh’s leg and actually opened
up a nice little cut on his leg. I’m thinking, Oh my god, we’re
going to have a confrontation here with this guy and I’m going
to have to fight him. He just had composure. He just looked at
me and said, “How you doing? I’m Jim Harbaugh.” “Hi, how
you doing? I’m Tony Gant. I’m sorry about that.”
I was vacillating between Michigan and Ohio State. I grew
up in Ohio and loved Ohio State. I was player of the year in
Ohio my senior year. At the time, they didn’t have a Mr. Football
award, but the top player received a governor’s trophy as
the most outstanding player in the State of Ohio. Keith Byars
probably got runner up, and then Bernie Kosar was third. That
was our ’81 season, which was our senior season. I’m pretty
proud of that.
My son, Allen, is currently on the Michigan team. He’s a
redshirt junior and is an outside linebacker. He came in as a
defensive back, and they switched him to linebacker. He just
gained a lot of weight. Allen was elated when he heard about
Harbaugh becoming the coach, just like I was. I’ve always told
Allen that I wanted him to play for Bo, like I did. This is the next
best thing—playing for Jim Harbaugh. He’s going to get exactly
what I had 30 years ago, because he’s going to get tremendous
coaching. I said, “Allen, I promise you, you guys are going to
win.” Everyone is saying we’re going to have a down year and
it’s going to take Jim two to three years to get his team. Our
cupboards are not bare—we just need some of these kids to be
developed. It was a thrill to play for Michigan and then have
my son out there coached by one of my good friends.
Being on the defensive side of the ball, I didn’t really know
how good Jim was until after we graduated. I see some of the
old football games on ESPN Classic or the Big Ten Network. I’ve
always known he was a great leader, that’s without question. A
lot of times, we didn’t really get to see each other play. I was on
the defensive side, so I was sitting down taking orders from the
defensive coordinator, while he was on the field doing what he
did, and vice versa. I really didn’t know how great of a player
he was until after we left. Then I’m looking at him against OHIO
STATE*, the guarantee game back in ’86. I saw our South Carolina
game on one of the reruns. Man, this guy was great. I knew
he was an All-American and I bragged about him, but wow!
*The OHIO STATE University College of Veterinary Medicine includes
a fenced dog-walking area with a fire hydrant painted in Michigan
I played in the Japan Bowl after my senior season, and
Vinny Testaverde was the big-name quarterback there, along
with Mike Shula. I’d tell these guys from Miami, “My quarterback
is better than anybody here.” I was upset because
Testaverde wore number 14 in the Japan Bowl. That was my
number all five years at Michigan. Just because he won the
Heisman Trophy, I had to revert to number 13. Jim was third
in the Heisman voting. Back then, the Japan Bowl was the second-
best bowl to go to. You always had the Senior Bowl and
the East-West Shrine game. I played with a lot of college superstars—
a lot of future NFL players—in Japan.
After my senior season, I didn’t see a lot of the guys. We’d
still go into the weight room quite a bit, but I don’t recall seeing
Jim that much, except on Pro Day. Jim didn’t know how
fast I was at the time. I’d broken my leg returning a punt my
junior year, and I played two years after that. We had a Pro Day.
I don’t know who came in and timed us, maybe it was Tony
Dungy, who was at Pittsburgh at the time. I came back into the
training room and said, “I just ran a 4.47 and a 4.49.” Jim said,
“No way, get out of here.” I did. Jim went up to the coaches,
asking if Tony Gant really ran that fast. I looked slow to all my
Jim was a great leader on our team, from the day that he
took the helm. Back in ’84, we were decimated with injuries.
That’s the year we went 6-6. We lost at least four—and maybe
five—starters off that team. I was the first to go down, with a
broken leg. That was the third game of the season, against Wisconsin.
Two or three games later, Jim broke his arm against
Michigan State. Jim and I were at the doctor’s office and, for
some reason, we were holding our x-rays, waiting for our doctor—
Dr. Gerald O’Connor—to come and see us. Jim put his
x-ray against the light, put it on that x-ray board, and said,
“Hey, Tony, this doesn’t look too good does it?” “Actually,
Jim, it doesn’t. I broke both of the bones in my leg, but your
break looks worse than mine.” Obviously, Jim was extremely
concerned about his broken arm, and I’m not sure it healed
properly either. Mike Reinhold had his injury that same year.
They had to put a pin in his hip. When I went to the hospital to
get a cast changed, going from a full cast to a half cast, I could
hear them hammering the pin out of Mike’s leg. That was scary.
During the ’84 season, we were decimated by injuries.
So, we really wanted to impress the coaches in ’85. We always
started camp by running a mile and a half for time. We had
other tests we had to do, but all of the coaches would come
out and watch us run the mile and a half. The coaches were
really impressed in ’85, because coming across that finish line
were three guys who were basically out the year before. Jim
Harbaugh came in first, I came in third and Mike Reinhold
came in fourth. We were just impressing the coaches that we
had come back from those devastating injuries. After you have
a season-ending injury, initially you are just so down in the
dumps. I was devastated. I had pro aspirations. I read some
of the clippings, and I knew where I stood. There was some
preseason All-American talk about me back in ‘84. We opened
up that year against Miami (Florida) and I had a tremendous
game. We upset them. They were the No. 1 team in the country.
Two days later, I broke my leg. It was a real bad break. I severed
my nerves, so it was the nerve damage that really hurt me, not
the broken bones. I was on crutches for four months and in
a cast for about six, just feeling so down on myself. But I tell
you what, I was crutching across campus—the middle of campus
at Michigan is called The Diag—and I was feeling sorry for
myself. I was going to class one day. I kid you not, I saw the
blind leading the blind. I saw a blind person leading another
person across campus. I was feeling sorry for myself. I had my
health. My leg was going to heal. I was going to play football in
another four to five months. These two people would never get
their sight back. That was a reality check for me. I embraced it,
took it for what it was worth. I was going to play again. Maybe
I wouldn’t be as good as I once was, but I learned to just enjoy
SHORT STORIES FROM
Bump Elliott, 90, was a star running back and the head
coach at Michigan. While he was the director of athletics at the
University of Iowa, he hired Dan Gable, Hayden Fry and Lute
Olson. Elliott served with the Marines in China during World
Who is to say what problems you’re going to run into,
because you never know in coaching. But Jim will do just an
outstanding job. He seems to me, as I look at it now, to be perfect
for the job. He has the background of Michigan, and he
knows the traditions and he knows the things that are important
at the University. It appears to me that he is a great coach.
He has had excellent success at the various schools—and pro
team—he has been with since he got into the coaching business.
I just think he is going to be fine. Particularly, one of the
things that I really felt was always very good to have is some
background of the University, because Michigan is pretty special.
They have traditions, and they have had a lot of success
there. To understand those traditions and understand where
they’re going and what they’re doing is important to make it
You can’t second guess after it’s over with, but obviously
it was an excellent move. Hopefully, there will be nothing but
good times ahead. I have lots of confidence in Jim. He’ll do a
great job. I’m rooting that Jim and the Wolverines will be fine.
Of course, I root for Iowa, too, you know, so it’s a little bit upsetting
when they have to play each other.
Jack Harbaugh is great. Jack is just a super guy. He was a
great coach at Iowa under Frank Lauterbur before joining Bo’s
staff at Michigan in ‘74. The one thing I remember most is my
daughter, Betsy, babysat for both John and Jim. (Said Betsy: “I
remember Jimmy and John would jump up and down on the
couch for hours. I can’t remember anything about Joani being
there. Isn’t that awful? She must have been very well behaved.
I must have been the world’s worst babysitter!”) That was a
great family. We really loved them when they were here. Jack
will love moving to Ann Arbor. That town is just like Iowa City,
only there is a nice big city next to it—Detroit—if you want to
go in. He’ll love Ann Arbor. (Said Jack: “I have great respect for
the Elliott family. I worked at Iowa for two years under Bump. I
coached his son, Bobby, and his daughter, Betsy, BABYSAT* for
our kids. Bump introduced me to a former teammate of his at
Michigan by the name of Jack Harbaugh. What are the odds? I
then went to Michigan and coached Pete Elliott’s son, David,
which would make a great trivia question!”)
Pat Davis was Jim Harbaugh’s seventh grade math teacher
at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Ann Arbor.
I had Jim for seventh grade math from 1976-77. He was a
great student. He was fun and very smart. We had a math program
that was individualized so that you could go at your own
pace. He was always up to pace or ahead of things, which made
it more fun for him. He was very good hearted.
I also had his brother, John, for seventh and eighth grade
math. John was a little bit shyer, but still the same, a really
good-hearted kid. I never met their parents, but I could tell
they both came from a great family and had a good upbringing.
They were kind to the other students. They didn’t get into
any of the seventh and eighth grade kind of normal terrible
behavior. They were really nice kids.
*When she was a teenager, Martha Stewart BABYSAT for Mickey
Mantle’s and Yogi Berra’s kids.
Jim had a very shy smile on his face when he was working
on things, and you could tell he was maybe in on something
going on that you didn’t know about. He was just good hearted
about his approach toward everything.
I have not seen him since the seventh grade. Of course, I
watched him play for U of M and saw him occasionally in the
news as his name crossed the candidates list around here. But
I never personally made any contact with him. It made me
feel good to see how he succeeded. As a teacher, any student
you’ve had that goes on to succeed, you feel great about. When
he came back to Ann Arbor, I was excited, but not surprised. I
was hoping that he would accept it. U of M needed some help,
and I’m glad that he was ready to be the man of the hour for
I like to tease people that I was the only math teacher I
know who had taught both of the opposing coaches in the
same SUPER BOWL*.
Recruited out of St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Andy
Borowski was a center on the U-M football teams from 1983-
87. Today he is the national accounts manager at Amcor Rigid
We always had a rule that nobody went out to a bar on a
Thursday night. That was the night that we all had to be very
focused. Usually, we’d have team meetings or player-only
meetings. If there was any word that some player might be out
at a bar, Jim would go and check to see if a player was there.
That’s how a lot of discipline was handed out.
*Danica Patrick has starred in more SUPER BOWL spots than any
All of us were accountable. If you hear Jim talk about these
things today, it’s accountability to one another. The camaraderie
was that accountability to one another, to the guy that was
next to you, to the guy that was running the ball. The camaraderie
you’re seeing is coming from that accountability.
Jim lived in a house on Packard Street. It was the summer
before my junior year. You’d see Jim sitting on the stairs, usually
with a girl, and talking to another girl on the phone. It was
the craziest thing I ever saw. I thought, how the heck does he
Dave Hochman was a student at Ann Arbor Pioneer High
School. He would skip class to attend Bo Schembechler’s weekly
Monday noon meetings with the U of M Club of Ann Arbor. His
teachers were unimpressed. He now lives half the year in Ann
Arbor and half in the Phoenix area.
The SUPER BOWL** came to the Phoenix area for the first
time in 1996 when Jim Harbaugh was an active player with the
Colts. I met him at a party at Planet Hollywood in Phoenix. I
told him I was a Michigan fan who still lived half the year in
Ann Arbor. His brother-in-law, Tom Crean, was then an assistant
basketball coach at Michigan State, so I asked him who
he’d be rooting for in the upcoming UM-MSU basketball game.
He said, “I’ve gotta go with State.”
My second meeting with Harbaugh came a few years later
when he was making an appearance at the Outback Steakhouse
in Ann Arbor. He stopped by every table to chat with fans. I
asked him about the 1986 Michigan-Minnesota game. Michigan
was undefeated late in the year, and Bo Schembechler—in
**The half-time show at the first SUPER BOWL in 1967 were the
bands from the University of Michigan and the University of Arizona.
his 18th year at Michigan—had a real chance at his first national
championship. Bo played for a tie, but lost the game anyway.
UM trailed by seven points when they scored a touchdown
with a couple minutes remaining. There was no overtime back
then. Unlike Tom Osborne’s decision to go for two and the win
in the epic National Title game with Miami, Bo chose to kick
the extra point, tying the game. But Minnesota ended up kicking
a last second field goal to win. After the game Harbaugh
made his famous guarantee that U-M would beat Ohio State in
Columbus the next week and go to the Rose Bowl. They did just
that! I asked Harbaugh what he thought of Bo going for the tie
and was pleasantly surprised when he responded, “I hated it.”
Bo Schembechler once told Doug James that he had “the
worst body in the history of Michigan football.” James wound
up starting on the offensive line for three years and was cocaptain
of the 1984 team. Since graduating, he’s been a sports
announcer and executive for several radio stations and networks
in his hometown of Louisville, as well as Charlotte and
I was a co-captain in 1984. Jim’s first start was against
MIAMI*, the defending national champion, ranked No. 1. It was
my third year as a starter in the offensive line. I had a lot of
game experience and played with a lot of good players, a lot
of good leaders. The first time we had the ball, Jim walked into
the huddle with a lot of swagger. I knew right then that even
though I was the offensive team captain, in the huddle it was
*The University of MIAMI (Fla.) teams are named the Hurricanes
because their first football game was delayed by a hurricane.
We were driving down the field and were getting close to
scoring. Jim jumped in the huddle and started yelling at the
offensive line to get more excited. “C’mon, we’re getting ready
to score! You guys need to be pumped up!” I said, “Jim, we’re in
the trenches here. We don’t get too excited. We just line up and
play, bud.” He was slapping guys on the helmet. I reeled him
in a little, not to the detriment of anybody. It was obvious that
even though it was his first start, he was going to take ownership
and lead the team.
We were destined to have a good season, and then Jim
broke his arm against Michigan State. He broke his humerus,
his upper arm bone. It was a devastating injury. I always felt
that what happened in ‘84, when we finished 6-6, was sort of
the perfect storm. I was confident that Bo was going to turn that
around, and Jim was going to be the guy to lead the offense.
The next year they came back and had a successful season,
winning the Fiesta Bowl and finishing second in the country.
I was on the field when Jim broke his arm. Michigan State
was winning, but we had a good drive going. We ran an offtackle
play. I pulled around and blocked a linebacker. Jamie
Morris got up in the hole. I think it was the strong safety who
hit him and he fumbled. The ball bounced all the way into the
backfield. Jim dived to recover the ball, and a guy flew in at
the same time and hit him in the upper arm. I’d never seen
an injury like that. I don’t think it was a compound break, but
you don’t see guys break their upper arm bone in football. At
Michigan, your expectations are next man up. The guys that
were backing up Jim didn’t have enough ability to do what Jim
did. As it turned out, Jim was a really special player. We lost
that game. It was the only time I lost to Michigan State in my
Bo would always say that most of us weren’t going to play
in the NFL, and even if we did, we weren’t going to play for very
long. We needed to get a degree. We had to go to class. He used
to carry our transcripts in his briefcase, in case he wanted to
have a conversation with someone about how they were doing
at school. I was injured in my last season and was on crutches.
I was a December graduate and didn’t really have a future in
the NFL. Bo wanted me to consider coaching. I was a graduate
assistant coach for awhile and worked for him through
the summer. I sat with him in the conference room next to his
office, and he had every player’s transcript. He hand wrote
notes on each transcript to the parents. The note might have
read, “Doug’s doing really well in school. You should be proud
of what he’s doing.” Or it might have read, “Doug needs to work
harder. I’ll do my part to keep pushing him, but make sure
that you stay on him about working hard in school.” He wrote
the notes, and I addressed the envelopes and put a stamp on
them. Those were the kinds of things that Bo did when he ran
the program. I think Jim takes a lot of that with him. That’s a big
part of who Jim Harbaugh is.
Rick Bay was captain of the U-M wrestling team in 1964-
65 and the Wolverines’ head wrestling coach from 1970-74.
He moved into athletic administration and was the athletic
director at Oregon (1981-84), Ohio State (1984-87), Minnesota
(1988-91) and San Diego State (1995-2003). He also served as
chief operating officer of the New York Yankees and president of
the Cleveland Indians.
From 1966-81, I coached WRESTLING* and worked for the
alumni office at Michigan. Jack was the secondary coach for
Bo, and we were good friends. We had a lot of fun together. He
has a great sense of humor. I love him and Jackie to death. One
funny thing I remember about Jack is—and we always laughed
about it—we were on the same athletic department softball
team. Bo played first base. Jack was left fielder, and I played
*Abe Lincoln is in the WRESTLING Hall of Fame.
shortstop. We had a great time playing. One game somebody
hit a fly ball to left field, and Jack had trouble with it. Jack was
a good athlete, but he had trouble with this particular fly ball.
It seemed like he staggered and circled underneath this fly ball
for 10 minutes before he finally got his bearings and made the
catch falling down. It was a routine play. It should have been
a routine play. I’ve always kidded Jack about that ever since.
Jack is very knowledgeable about the Cleveland Indians. The
older Harbaughs grew up in Crestline, Ohio. I did hear from
him when I got the Indians job, but I didn’t know that he knew
baseball trivia like a genius.
Jim Harbaugh killed Ohio State in 1985 when I was the
athletic director at OSU. Jim was the quarterback. It was a
game, as often Ohio State-Michigan games were, that probably
determined the Big Ten champion, and we were behind with
a few minutes to go. Cris Carter, our wide receiver, now a Hall
of Famer, made a circus catch in the end zone to put us within
striking distance of Michigan. On the very next possession,
Michigan was in a bit of a hole. We knew that Harbaugh was
going to throw the ball. We sent a blitz, a safety blitz, and our
safety didn’t quite get there. Harbaugh read it perfectly and hit
his wide receiver in stride for an 80-yard touchdown pass on
the first play from scrimmage after Carter had put us back in
the game. That killed us!
We played Michigan four times when I was AD at Ohio
State. I was there four years, four football seasons. We won
two, and they won two. We won the last one, which was the
most dramatic because it was 1987 in Ann Arbor. The Monday
before the Michigan game, I was told to fire our head
coach, Earle Bruce. I resigned, because I wouldn’t fire Earle.
The president did. But we did go up to Michigan. That was our
last game, a fired coaching staff and myself, a resigned AD. We
went to Michigan five days later, Earle’s last game, and we beat
Jim’s hiring has put a lot of anticipation into the probability
that the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry will get new energy.
Ohio State has dominated Michigan in the last eight or nine
years to the point where the rivalry has lost some of its sizzle.
But with Jim at Michigan and Urban Meyer at Ohio State, both
controversial kinds of figures, it will generate a lot of interest. It
could come close to the Woody-Bo thing or even Bo and Earle.
People forget. People talk about Woody-Bo, but Earle Bruce
was 5-4 against Bo in his nine years.
Overall, I think Michigan and Ohio State have a great
rivalry. I still consider it the epitome of a football rivalry. It’s
just that it’s been one-sided for several years now. But there’s
so much history there. Even this recent dominance by Ohio
State doesn’t take a lot of the luster off of it. People still get
pumped up when Michigan plays Ohio State, and I still think
it’s the best rivalry in college football.
Chris Anson is a 2012 Michigan law school graduate.
Jim Harbaugh is a brilliantly intellectual coach, befitting a
man with a classical education. He is super smart and extraordinarily
adept at keeping himself narrowly focused on football.
John Barnes and Jim Harbaugh were among six founding
partners who created IndyCar team Panther Racing in 1997.
Barnes co-owned and managed Panther Racing from its inception
until the team was dissolved in 2014.
Shortly after Jim Harbaugh joined us in forming Panther
Racing, we were racing at Dover International Speedway in
Delaware. There was a driver on the track who ran into our
THE BIG TEN, THE BIG HOUSE, THE BIG TIME 155
driver’s car. Jim was up on the spotter’s table and got into a
shoving match over it and hurt his shoulder. The next day he
had to report to the Colts training camp. It sent a powerful
message to our team. “Yes, he was invested in this.”
His association with our team meant a lot to him and how
we did in the races meant a lot to him. I would laugh at anybody
who thinks Jim Harbaugh does anything halfway. He’s totally
engaged in everything that he does. Before Jim joined Panther
Racing he was a racing fan. He did commercials with one of the
other partners on the team, Gary Pedigo, who owned a Chevrolet
dealership in town. It was Gary’s idea to bring Jim onboard.
Jim is a “guy’s guy.” All our partners were good because each of
us had a role. Jim was the face of our team because of his NFL*
status. I didn’t have to worry about telling the Panther Racing
story or speaking to the press. Jim was the guy.
Jim makes everybody around him better. I’ve never met
anyone like him in my life. Whether it was a race car driver or a
Fortune 100 CEO, Jim has an incredible knack for seeing things
around him, analyzing it quickly and making smart decisions.
Jim was always involved, always engaged. He would help
the pit crew and would give suggestions on how to make pit
stops better. He wasn’t a guy who would just stand around and
sign autographs. He was always engaged and that’s why everyone
around him was always so blown away. He was a big deal,
but he never acted like it. He was just a regular guy. The khaki
pants and the sweatshirts, that’s Jim. He wasn’t there to get the
attention. He was there to get the results. He wasn’t afraid of
coming to me and I wasn’t afraid to go to him. People are people,
whether you’re driving a milk truck, driving an IndyCar at
230 miles per hour or throwing a football.
Jim had an organization called the Harbaugh Hill Foundation.
He would give Colts tickets to inner city kids and we
*The last Alabama quarterback to win an NFL game was Jeff Rutledge.
would bring the kids to our racing shop for Christmas. About
250 kids would come to the shop and we’d give the kids gifts
and provide a Christmas experience. Every year we had the
celebration on the same day, December 23. I didn’t know why
we picked that date, but one year Jim said, “It’s my birthday.” I
said, “It’s my birthday, too.” Jim said, “Yeah, I knew that.”
Ken Magee grew up in the same Ann Arbor neighborhood as the Harbaughs,
then spent more than 25 years working in law enforcement. He has
amassed the largest private collection of U-M football memorabilia,
some on display at Schembechler Hall. He is the co-author of The
Game: The Michigan-Ohio State Football Rivalry and The Little
Brown Jug: The Michigan-Minnesota Rivalry.
The Harbaugh family moved to Ann Arbor in ’74. Little
Jimmy Harbaugh was about 10-years-old and I was about 16.
I was a friend of the Schembechler family, and sometimes
the Schembechler boys and some of the neighborhood kids
would ride our bikes to Michigan Stadium to watch the practices.
Because we were with the Schembechler boys, we were
allowed in the stadium. I was in the north end zone stands
during a practice and kids were tossing a ball around. There was
a little kid who was probably in row number 15 or 20 throwing
the ball up to a kid in row 60. That little boy had a great arm. I
asked one of the other kids, Geoff Schembechler, “Who is that?”
He said, “That’s Jack Harbaugh’s son, Jimmy Harbaugh.” I kept
watching. Somebody threw the ball to Jimmy, and it went over
his head. He sprinted down the bleachers to get the ball. I’m
thinking, he’s got a great arm and he’s fast. Then he fell. His
head landed smack-dab on a bleacher seat. Flush. I heard the
sound. It echoed throughout the stadium. I thought, the fast
kid with the great arm? He’s dead now. I took a couple of steps
toward him and saw him rise from the dead. He picked up his
head. You could tell he was out cold, but he got on his feet.
He was bound and determined to get that ball. I said to one of
the other kids, “That’s the toughest little kid I’ve ever seen.” He
picked up the ball, half unconscious, and threw it back to a kid
halfway up the stadium.
Tim Marshall is the president and CEO of the Bank of Ann
Arbor. A native of Indianapolis, he graduated from Purdue University
and earned an MBA at Butler University.
At the Bank of Ann Arbor, we’ve done billboard campaigns
that were spontaneous. When Michigan went to the NCAA
Men’s Basketball Final Four, they qualified on a Sunday afternoon.
We had all hands on deck designing a billboard campaign
for Coach Beilein and his team. We had the billboards up by
Tuesday. We’ve also been very forward in terms of our utilization
of social media. Last Columbus Day we posted, “We will
not be closed for Columbus Day because Columbus is in Ohio.”
In December of 2014, when it seemed as if all of the
momentum was in place for Coach Harbaugh to be hired,
the head of our advertising agency—Ernie Perich of Perich
Advertising and Design—called me at home on Saturday. The
announcement was going to be the following Tuesday. We
worked all weekend. We got the creative done. We worked
with the outdoor company Monday morning and got six
boards aligned. We hit social media around 9 a.m. the day of
the announcement. It was amazing, the amount of shares, the
attention we got—the Big Ten Network, ESPN*, as far away as
the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Washington Post.
*Tim Brando was the original host of ESPN’s GameDay.
One of the messages was “HarBO.” That was a takeoff on
Bo Schembechler. We’ve continued it. The boards are very
simple messaging on the verbiage. It’s all about trying to get
people’s attention. It’s all about trying to get people to smile.
It’s all an attempt to add a little levity to what are normally
rather dry and mundane advertising messages. We continued
once Jim got here. We have a “Like and Love” campaign. One
of our boards near the stadium was, “Like Jim loves Khakis. We
love to help.”
It doubles down into significant growth that we’ve been
able to achieve as we’ve developed this very strong brand
imagine. We’re local. We can respond quickly to current events
that are impacting our local community. And we can do it in a
fun way. We’re all about being part of the local community. It’s
a competitive advantage that other banks can’t replicate.
Paul Chutich was a childhood friend of Jim Harbaugh. His
father owned Bimbo’s Pizza in Ann Arbor which was a common
gathering spot for Bo Schembechler, his assistant coaches and
their families. Paul played hockey at Bowdoin College in Maine.
He owns the Delkwood Grill in Marietta, Ga.
Jim’s childhood and my childhood completely intersected.
We did everything together. We went through first communion
together at Saint Francis. We did our confirmation together.
We played junior football together for the Packers, of all teams.
Not the Wolverines. Then we played hockey together, and we
were on the Tappan baseball team together. My main sport
was hockey, and I played college hockey in Maine while Jim
was playing football at Michigan. We still remained close, so
whenever I was home from school, we’d have a good time and
hang around together.
My best memory was of us hanging around the Michigan
football practice field. We’d bug the players for sweatbands
and try to get footballs. We got yelled at by Bo at least every
other day. Bo didn’t talk to you. He barked. “Get that kid out of
here!” It wasn’t nice language with Bo. He didn’t mind throwing
a few cuss words around.
I first met Jim when we were kids and I was hanging around
all of the coaches’ kids. We played football and hockey together.
If I wasn’t on his team it was always a bitter rivalry. Jim was the
most competitive kid around. He wanted to beat everybody in
everything. Jim was more competitive than his brother, John.
John is the nicer of the two. I say that because Jim was so competitive
that it would get in the way a bit. He was involved in a
few playground fights, not fights where punches were thrown,
just little scuffles. He had a lot of friends, but not on the field.
I was a running back on the Packers team when Jim was the
quarterback. I played only two years and then started concentrating
on hockey. Jim quit hockey around the same time I quit
football. We played against each other in hockey. We’d tangle
and get into it, but afterward we’d still be best friends. He was
good at hockey, as far as his knowledge of the game and his
sense of the game. He wasn’t the best of skaters, though. The
reason he wore uniform number four a lot in his football career
was because it was the number of his favorite hockey player,
the Bruins’ Bobby Orr.
Jim was a little bit cheap. We used to tease him. He had
what we called Alligator Arms—he couldn’t reach his pockets.
When Jim was playing at Michigan, I’d come back to Ann
Arbor and hang out with him and his teammates. We’d go to
a drive-in movie theater and pack eight guys in the trunk. We
were all cheap. None of us had any money, so we’d pack eight,
nine guys in the trunk. Girls got in free, so we’d have a girl drive
in with eight or nine guys in the trunk. Jamie Morris was in the
trunk a time or two. Imagine Jumbo Elliott in the trunk. He was
6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9 and weighed nearly 300 pounds. He was in
the trunk, too. Fortunately, we used a big old car, a Catalina.
There would be so many of us in the trunk that you couldn’t
John Elway is a Hall of Fame quarterback who won two
Super Bowls. He played collegiately at Stanford. Elway is currently
the general manager and executive vice president of the
It was a long time ago, 1980 and ‘81, when I was a sophomore
and junior at Stanford. Jim was in his final two years
of high school at Palo Alto High School. He had transferred
from a high school in Michigan when his dad became a
defensive coach at Stanford. Jim would haunt our practices.
There’s one thing that sticks in my mind about Jim. When he
would come to our practices, the one thing that you could
not deny was the unbelievable confidence that Jim had.
I remember thinking at the time that if this kid was at Stanford,
I would be his backup! It didn’t seem to enter his mind that
he couldn’t be the starter no matter where he was or who was
the starter there. Nothing he has done in football has surprised
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