Sam Webb: Will, obviously you were meeting with Greg long before you hit your biggest roadblocks in your career. Were there points in your interaction that you could see what was coming down the path? Were these things that you guys were talking about or was it something that just came suddenly?
Greg Harden: “The real pace was fascinating in the sense that over a couple of years we began to build a relationship that was solid. A relationship where he was willing to examine some of his self defeating behaviors and he was working. He was working really, really hard, but life is predictable and what you discover is that at a certain point I think they’re going to fall apart if someone is not consistently committed to being healthy and happy and sane. Will had done a great job of alternating in such a way that he said, I’m doing so much less. I’m not nearly as dramatic in my negative behaviors that I’m sure I can get away with just a little bit more. It got to a point where he really crossed a couple of lines, but the beauty of it was he never went back into resistance, denial, anger and he took ownership. He claimed responsibility. He was somebody if you asked him the right question…Will’s trick was, if you ask the right question (laughter) I’ll tell you the truth.”
Sam Webb: He wasn’t going to volunteer the information. You had to ask, had to probe in the right way.
Greg Harden: “Absolutely.”
Sam Webb: Will you get to that point. Clearly as you described it (at the bust), this is a point in your life where you feel like people could choose to check out and they would have been well within their rights to say, hey lost cause and a lot of people didn’t obviously.
Will Hagerup: “Yeah. I made some mistakes that in some ways people lost trust in me, which was understandable. Like Greg said, I felt like I took ownership, I felt that I had no other choice but to take ownership because other people weren’t going to own it at that time and it took months and months for some people to sort of get back onboard. I relied heavily on people close to with me those couple of months. I can remember being at home sort of actually believing that I was not going to be back at Michigan and talking with my parents and I specifically remember going to lunch with my sister and saying I don’t know what I’m going to do next. She said, I think you need to fight at Michigan. I said, they’re not going to let me back. I know I can get better, but they’re not going to let me back there, they’re not happy with me right now. She said give it a try, talk to some people and give it a shot. If nothing else what is the worse that can happen. I think that was the turning point for me and then to have the support from the other side coming from Coach Hoke, Greg Harden, Dave Brandon, teammates. Teammates at the time that I didn’t think were going to be teammates, sending me texts, calling, seeing them out at the library or whatever. It was really incredible to sort of find out which people had my back and who believed in me just beyond those few months.”
Sam Webb: Family is always the last to give up on you, not to say that it is a given that they would support you through everything but yours did. They’re your family and they love you and supposed to. They tell you to fight when you get right with the fight, how do you go about it. What did you do to fight?
Will Hagerup: “I needed to first self exam and say, okay which of my behavior is something that I need to address and have I been sort of lying to myself these last few years about some of the behavior. Just talk to Greg and let him know everything, be honest and let him do what he’s good at.”
Sam Webb: So he was the first line for you?
Will Hagerup: “Yes, yes. He has a gift for these things and he has obviously had experience studied and all that, but he has a natural gift for sort of tapping into what people are really good at and how they can turn weaknesses into strengths. Then like I said, my first three month meeting with Greg Harden, multiple times a week, Dave Brandon once a week, Coach Hoke multiple times a week. I do not think any three of them felt that I would be playing Michigan football again and to me that is just a testament to them and to me that this was bigger than football.”
Sam Webb: We have Greg Harden in studio as well, and you were the first line and at some point, you have to get right with vouching for him. You through your interaction with him have to put yourself on the line. You have to get right with that. How long was that process?
Greg Harden: “Let’s be real clear. At a certain point, you have to really go into another space and nothing they can do to prepare you in school, in clinical training to really pose certain questions to yourself. How much am I going to bet on this guy? We’re talking about reputations, talking about credibility, talking about asking a head coach, athletic director to trust your opinion about betting on a kid. So let’s take it to another level. Will’s parents have come up several times in this conversation and once you see his parents and see his family, not to mention the grandfather, the amazing colonel, who once you meet him, you will know he has a legacy. Imagine suggesting to Will, Will the only way that this is going to work is if you are kicked off of the team and if you want to stay in school, you and your family will have to pay for it. Because we cannot support you in this current state and if you can demonstrate over the next six months to a year that you’re committed, that would be a heck of a statement and anyone would believe that you are qualified to be a part of this program going forward. But you have to prove something that the average bear, the average man, the average person would never do and that is you’re going to have to take full responsibility for your education. You’re going to have to train yourself, going to have to push yourself and then you’re going to have to come back and say I have done all that you have asked me to do. I said if you do that son, it’ll prove to everybody that you are qualified and capable of pulling this off and he said, ‘I’ll do it.’ His family said, ‘We’ll do it.’ That was a testimony in itself. First you’ve got to get them to agree to that and then you’ve got to believe that he can actually pull it off. The point is, if he couldn’t pull it off it would have been obvious in that year. Six months into it, this kid is focused and discipline. We provided him with external resources. We don’t want to have people believing that Michigan’s athletics is going to take care of every aspect of what it means to get someone right. We use external resources that are in the university hospital system that are amazing. We upgraded his opportunity to have a therapist who was outside of athletics who could talk about things that we couldn’t even comprehend. Together, we put a network around him, a safety net around him where he would have access to me, to others and everyone that believes in him and he used it effectively.”