I need good students, tough guys- Jim Harbaugh
ALL IT TAKES IS ALL YA GOT- JOHN DUERR
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
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 Cincinatti, 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 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.
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“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?”
A ROOMIE WITH A VIEW- JERRY QUAERNA
“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.…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 inthe basement. Jack was there, John was there, I was there, Jimwas there. What were we discussing? We were discussing if thegame 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 untilI hit the grave.
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The fifth and final installment of this year’s series looking back at the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry takes us to 1986. The national economy was booming, the Mets won an absolute classic of a World Series, President Ronald Reagan was dealing with the Iran-Contra controversy, and Microsoft Corporation issued its initial public offering of shares. In college football, Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh guaranteed that his team would beat archrival Ohio State. Guaranteed.
The history of sports guarantees has been checkered over the years. Joe Namath made his legend when the New York Jets fulfilled his guarantee of victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, but Patrick Ewing guaranteed that his New York Knicks would defeat numerous opponents, and his guarantees almost always fell flat on their face. So when Harbaugh guaranteed a Michigan victory in “The Game”, it grabbed sports headlines with the subtle attraction of a magnet. Harbaugh’s guarantee assured only one thing: Either his legend would be defined, or he would look like a fool.
As it turns out, he came very close to looking like a fool. Fortunately for Harbaugh and all the Maize & Blue faithful, the Michigan defense had his back, particularly when it counted most. With Ohio State driving in the final minutes, Buckeye quarterback Jim Karsatos threw a long pass for the end zone, and had a man open, but Michigan safety Ivan Hicks got his hand on the ball and knocked it away. Then, on a third down, Karsatos connected with Cris Carter, who headed for the first down marker, but was tackled a little more than two yards shy of the first down by Erik Campbell, who went on to became an excellent wide receivers coach. The yardage necessary was more than Ohio State coach Earle Bruce was comfortable with, and he sent out Matt Frantz to try a 45-yard field goal. Almost immediately, Frantz’s kick started to hook, and it veered wide of the goal posts, allowing Michigan to run out the clock for the victory.
Michigan finished the season with an 11-2 record. Oddly, the Wolverines had one regular season game left on the schedule after Ohio State, and they enjoyed their trip to sunny Honolulu, beating Hawaii 27-10. The Rose Bowl wound up being a disappointment, as the Wolverines fell to Arizona State, 22-15. Harbaugh was named to the All-America team, as were Garland Rivers and Jumbo Elliott, an offensive tackle who went on to a tremendous career in the NFL. Ohio State rebounded nicely to top Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, 28-12.
This year, as we approach The Game, the atmosphere is more somber. An Ohio State student passed away during the school’s annual student tradition of jumping in Mirror Lake during the week leading up to the Michigan game. Please keep that student’s family and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers. We’d also like to thank the Ohio State and Michigan State football teams, who showed tremendous compassion and support for Chad Carr during his fight against cancer.
Thanks to CBS Sports and youtube poster Wolverine Historian. As always, I own nothing, nobody profits off this blog post, and everything here is done strictly for your enjoyment.