Hagerup's Redemption a Team Effort (Part 4)

In the fourth and final part of our sit-down with Will Hagerup and Greg Harden they discuss Hagerup's life after Michigan football and the future departmental innovations in support for student athletes at the University of Michigan.

Sam Webb:  Will I kind of posed this question to you.  Clearly when you first went to see Greg didn’t understand the resource you have in him.  I’m curious within the team, is there an understanding of that or is that just something that guys have got to come to know through experience?

Will Hagerup:  “I think selfishly, I would like to say he is a kept secret, and that he and I have our own thing, but when he comes into the team room, guys sit up and guys give their full attention.  They know they are about to see something.  This guys range of characters from having guys on the floor laughing, to having guys crying, to having guys shaking.  He is an incredible figure for a team to rally behind.  He has met with the team probably five or six times this year, for about an hour at a time and you don’t see one guy the entire time slouch or look disinterested.  Because he has a gift and he understands team dynamics.  It’s hard to get the respect of a bunch of 18-22 year olds.”

Greg Harden:  “Or to hold their attention for more than three minutes.”

Will Hagerup:  “Exactly, let alone a bunch of boys and he does it.  I don’t think there is anybody else that can do it quite like he does and so yeah, there is an understanding on this team that he is a guy that whatever your issue is or if you just want to eat training table and laugh for 20 minutes and have a great conversation.  There are guys who have that kind of relationship and then there are guys like me who have been with him for every week for five years now.  There is a range of sort of relationships with him, but there is a collective understanding that he’s the guy that makes a lot of this work.”

Sam Webb:  It goes beyond the football team.  You talk about having range, you serve the needs of the athletic department, of all the student athletes.  It seems like a very daunting task that you execute quite fluently my man.

Greg Harden:  “Thank you very much, but understand that we have a team.  Again, I have to acknowledge that Barb Hansen is an amazing clinician and we have just introduced into the environment, Dr. Scott Goldman, who is going to really have a dramatic impact on how well we can serve this population.  Remember, we have 31 teams, 29 varsity sports, over 900 students involved in the athletics.  While many people are limited in their interest in sports, there are no limits to how excited I can get about water polo or gymnastics or field hockey or all the sports that we’ve introduced.  We’re doing all we can to make sure that everyone of these teams have access to people who will invest in their students and to push an agenda for total person/peak performance.  How difficult is it to get a gymnast or a swimmer since they were five to believe that they are more than a swimmer or a gymnast.  We put a lot of energy in it, but our coaches believe in it.  Our sports administrators, Bitsy Ritt, Lisa Savoury, Mike Debord; they’re all invested to make sure that we are constantly providing resources to our students and that we see them as more than athletes.  The department sees them as more than athletes and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that the university and anybody in the community sees a whole person when they’re talking about an 18-22-year-old who is in the midst of self discovery and trying to figure out who they are and what they’re trying to be about.”

Sam Webb:  You touched on something that we were talking about during the break.  People generally, I know I’m painting with a very broad brush, but people don’t generally look at you more than football players, certainly in their social media interaction with you.  Will you have a unique thing…I’m going to give you an opportunity to highlight somebody else that invested in you and didn’t look at you as just a football player and you talked about her in your speech, your girlfriend.  That was a person that invested in you despite the circumstances.

Will Hagerup:  “You know when things went south for me, she was right there and I can remember a letter that she wrote me actually about a month into being released from the team and stuff like that makes a difference.  We’ve been together for almost two years now.  It’s not about football for them when you have people who say you’re more than a football player.  Whatever happens with football or whatever happens on Saturday and you have a bad game or whatever, it is more than that.  You’re more than that and I think with Greg Harden and other people, guys on the team realize that too.  That’s a powerful thing.  Yeah, she meant a great deal.  I know I made the joke about her and clearly she is not a jersey chaser, if she got on the bandwagon once I wasn’t a football player any more (laughter).”

Sam Webb:  That was hilarious, hilarious for sure.  It was hilarious because it was true, it was poignant.  If she gets on board at that point, she just proved to you that she’s there for you.  That’s big time and you very rightfully young man decided not to mess that up.  So good for you.  So now we’re at the stage where we talk about what is next.  What is next for Will Hagerup?

Will Hagerup:  “I want to finish my time in Ann Arbor the right way.  I want to invest in finishing academics the right way and seeing some of my roommates, some of my teammates, just enjoying Ann Arbor for another week or so.  Once that happens, I do want to give the NFL my best shot.  I think if I train the right way I can have an opportunity but there are things beyond that that I’m looking forward to as well.  This guy next to me is someone who makes you believe that you can have so many different identities and he has encouraged me to explore things that I probably wouldn’t have even thought about.  One of those things that maybe one thing be in the political realm.  I want to have influence.”

Sam Webb:  You seem like you can a politician.

Will Hagerup:  “Thank you? (Laughter).  There is lots that I want to do, but I’m definitely going to start these next few months into putting everything I have into being a great punter and improving my skills and developing consistency and I think I’m really excited for it.”

Sam Webb:  When we go over to Greg Harden, I think people as I said before, suddenly are getting a picture and a proper appreciation of what it is that you do behind the scenes.  It’s not because you are out there making them aware.  If you haven’t picked it up yet…this is not a guy that is big on self –aggrandizing. That’s not you.  So allow me to do that for you as the power to inspire is not a common trait.  You my friend have the power to inspire, so that is something that should be valued and celebrated.

Ira Weintraub:  How about a message from a perspective that is unbiased.  Someone that is not Michigan, we obviously have our Michigan biases.  I sent a message this morning to a gentleman who happened to do a piece on Greg Harden, on 60 Minutes on Showtime for their sport’s special.  I told JB that Greg and Will were going to be here and JB wanted me to pass along.  In all of my years of interviewing some of the greats, Greg Harden is one of the best profiles that I’ve ever done, a person of influence I’ve ever met.

Greg Harden:  “Thanks Ira, I appreciate that.  I know you and JB have a history and to be honest with you, one of the reasons I did the 60 Minutes piece was because JB was involved.  If there was ever someone that you saw on the screen that you thought might really be that person, I believe if this guy was half the man he presented, I wanted to meet him.  When I met him, he was so open, so committed to making sure you felt comfortable.  It took me a while to believe it was real (laughter).  This guy is so genuine, so authentic, so comfortable being who he is, I’m just so impressed and so proud to have been someone who had a chance to work with him.”

Sam Webb:  It was great to talk to him about it.  It was great to talk to him about you.  As I told you at the time, you’re looking at the TV and that’s Greg Harden on TV.  You had that experience and then it is like man, we’re here talking to JB.  So it was an unbelievable experience to say the least.  I’ve got to ask you a much broader question.  I wonder if through this enhanced understanding, not just locally but nationally of our value, are we going to see more athletic departments…they can’t have a Greg Harden, but they can try.  Are we going to see them try to do what Michigan is doing here with Michigan and your department?

Greg Harden:  “The beauty of what we have done and what we have set up.  In the ‘80s and the ‘90s we were way ahead of everyone else.  As we move into this current generation, a current era, schools across the nation are investing more in student development, student engagement, trying to prepare our students.  We’ve taken it to another level.  We’re doing leadership development and career preparation and our commitment and the investment of donors to this overarching approach to seeing a complete person and making sure that when someone leaves here they’re ready to take on the world.  That’s going to be duplicated at first class programs all over the country.  It’s exciting to see what used to be something that we were obsessed with and thought about is starting to be something that is the norm.  You’re going to be really excited about what we’re doing in the athletic department, as we push an agenda, training people to be the best leaders.  Training people to be prepared…understand how difficult it is for career preparation when you are a student involved in athletics.  You’re peers are going off on summer internships, they’re taking jobs, they’re taking opportunities to grow and evolve, and prepare themselves for after college and we’re doing all that we can.  Shari Acho, Marsha Hyde, Brian Townsend…begin to research this Sam because there are going to be some great stories coming out.  To me life took an interesting turn after the 60 Minutes piece.  I had a chance to connect with Shane Salerno, you should check him out.  This is going to be a partner that I’m going to spend a lot of quality time with, trying to figure out taking these messages that we’re talking about today to a whole different level.  I’m excited and nationally we know that people are going to start investing more into their universities and institutions and making sure they’re giving students involved in athletics a real shot at being successful at everything that they do.”


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