U-M, Harbaugh Brought Pickard’s Dad to Tears

Jake Pickard had a fantastic official visit experience at Michigan last weekend. The coaching staff wowed him. The stadium left him awestruck. The academics and tradition made powerful impressions. So why didn’t he commit. The talented youngster’s father breaks it all down.

Sam Webb:  So you were saying you were impressed with Harbaugh?

Andy Pickard:  “Oh my god, we met probably 40 of the top 50 coaches in the country over the recruiting process and he’s first amongst equals in my opinion.  Just his integrity, his enthusiasm, just a first class man.  Whether Jake Pickard decides to play ball there, this guy is a winner.  His coaching staff… we broke down film.  We looked at different defenses, how Jake would play in this set and that set.  It wasn’t a lot of (butt) kissing.  He said that to all the recruits. ‘You come here, you’re going to work hard.  Work hard in classroom, work hard in weight room, work hard on the field and we’re going to represent this university like it should be represented.’  He wasn’t blowing smoke.  He didn’t say, ‘we’re going to beat Ohio State.’ He didn’t even bring it up.  He said we’re going to be a first class football program that the University of Michigan expects and deserves.”

Sam Webb:  Jake is obviously a very versatile kid that can play tight end or defensive end. There was some talk of Michigan looking at him at tight end, but you mentioned you broke down film at defensive end?

Andy Pickard:  “I grew up in the Midwest in Indiana.  I was always taught when the coach tells you to take a crap, you ask him how much and what color (laughter).  Jake really likes hitting people.  To give you a little sense of the kid, at the beginning of his junior year when people were starting (to recruit him) and he was coming up under the radar, he had worked for six months on running routes day after day after day.  One week before the season started, his head coach came to him and said, ‘look, we’ve had some injuries.  You’re the best blocker on the team. I want you to play offensive tackle and defensive tackle.’  Jake took about three seconds to say, ‘coach I’ll play wherever you need me to play.’  That’s the kind of kid he is.”

“(The Michigan coaches) want him as a D-end.  Just to get it straight, Jake is 6-6, he weighs about 238 and he has got an 83 inch wingspan.  He runs the 40 in 4.72 and runs the shuttle in 4.51, so they just see him in six months or a year playing on the edge at 270 and with his first step and speed being someone that can help them win Big Ten Championships.”

“We sat with D.J. (Durkin) the DC, we sat with Mattison, and then Jake and I sat with Jim for an hour in his office.  Here’s the thing, all along, we wanted to have integrity, transparency and put our egos aside through this whole recruiting process.  We’ve been open and honest and really the four key things are the relationship with the coaching staff, how he gets along with the players, the academics and whether or not he’ll have a chance to compete.  After our visit this weekend, you can put a ten in all four of those boxes.”

Sam Webb:  Did you get a chance to mingle with some of the other parents and what were they saying?

Andy Pickard:  “Here’s the funny thing about recruiting, it is kind of like I think there was a very positive feeling amongst the group but everybody’s there for their own son.  There was a very positive vibe.  You come to Michigan and in the afternoon they took us out on the turf and on the big screen they had this pump up video. Harbaugh laughed because he saw me walking on the sideline.  He said, ‘what’s wrong Pickard?’ And I turned around and I had tears streaming down my eyes.  He goes, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ I said, I just can’t believe that my son is going to have a chance to play on this field and maybe one day help Michigan win a championship.  It’s a true story.  You can’t make that (stuff) up.”

“At the end of the day there’s two things.  One is that it’s my son that has got to set his head on that pillow every night.  Not me.  He’s the one that has got to work 120 hours a week.  To think that this little leather ball is going to give him an opportunity to get a degree from the University of Michigan, are you (freaking) kidding me (laughter).  Jake is a good student.  Millburn High School is the #1 ranked public school in the state of New Jersey.  Most of our kids go to the Ivy Leagues.  There are probably 25 guys that I know really well that are Michigan Alums that live in my town, Troy Hills and they’re texting me constantly.  Four work at Goldman Sachs, four own their own companies, four are hedge fund guys, four are attorneys, four are doctors.  They said with that Block M no matter where you go in the world, people say, ‘Go Blue!’  What’s crazy about it is, what got us started is Jake camped at Michigan between his sophomore and junior year and that’s always been kind of his place.  In fact, he was supposed to go to Oregon.  Oregon is after him hard and he canceled that official.  You know what’s crazy, I told him that once you make your decision, once you put the ring on the finger and walk down that aisle, we’re not messing around anymore.  He committed to Wisconsin on the 31st of July and all of a sudden, Gary Anderson, who told Jake he would never leave Wisconsin, gets up in the middle of the night and goes to Oregon State.  The way Jake found out about that is he was class, cell phone off.  He comes out of class and he had 22 missed calls.  He was like, what the heck is going on.  So that’s why we’re where we are (in the recruiting process) now.”

Sam Webb:  So if (the visit to Ann Arbor) was that spectacular, what’s holding you back from saying, we’re going to Michigan?

Andy Pickard:  “I’ll tell you exactly why.  The Syracuse head coach is coming to our house (Monday), the Wisconsin head coach and defensive coordinator are coming to our house on Tuesday, and his mother did not come on the trip.  We asked Coach Harbaugh, just as a family…this decision for Jake is not necessarily for the next four or five years but for the next 50 years… we just kind of owe it to (to his mom) to come back.  Coach Harbaugh said, ‘you know what, absolutely.  If you want to go talk to your head coach, your minister or whoever.  Whatever you guys need to do because that’s how much we believe in you.’  You can go to some of these other places (and they say), look you don’t give me an answer right now, we’re going to the next guy or whatever.  They try to press you.  Jim Harbaugh is not that way.  I’ll tell you, he’s really, really, really something special.”

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