John Harbaugh: "Michigan is Going to Win”

John Harbaugh was in Ann Arbor this weekend for his brother's first annual high school coaches clinic. The Baltimore Ravens headman discussed his message to the Michigan football team, his brother's journey to Michigan, the timeline for the Wolverines to become a winner, and more.

John Harbaugh:  “It’s a great thrill.  I haven’t been in this building ever.  This was the old building back when we were kids and the last time I was here, it was still the old building.  Coming here and seeing the facility, seeing the staff, seeing the players, talking to the team, hanging out with some recruits, it has just been really, really fun couple of days.  I look forward to seeing some high school coaches and talking a little football here for a little while.  It’s great to be here.  Jim’s been great.  The Michigan staff has been incredible.  The press guys have been amazing, just a first class operation all the way.”

Question:  What can the Lions expect from Ngata?

John Harbaugh:  “First of all, he is a first class guy, family man.  His little son, who is five years old, is a little mini me Haloti Ngata, I can tell you that right now.  When he comes over to our place, which is quite often, some sprinklers come on after practice and I see Haloti’s son running around the sprinklers, so he gets soaking wet, but he looks just like Haloti.  We need to get him an offer right away here at Michigan.  A great family, great wife, just all that stuff, but as a player, just as a good.  He’s a great football player.  He’s a run stuffer, he’s a powerful inside pass rusher.  He’s still got plenty of left.  It would have been nice to be able to keep him.  I thought that would happen actually.  I thought we’d be able to come towards something that would work for both of us financially, but we weren’t able to do that in the end.  Certainly no hard feelings, greatest and upmost respect for Haloti and I know the feeling is mutual, wish nothing but success here in Detroit.  We are happy that he is in the NFC and not AFC.”

Question:  Your family is very close and familiar with this place, what is it like for you to see your brother land here?

John Harbaugh:  “It’s pretty cool to see him out there with the M Block hat on, ala Jack Harbaugh from old.  Talked standing in front of the Michigan team and talking to Michigan players.  For us growing up that was pretty iconic, now the guys that were in those uniforms when we were kids, Rick Leach and Jim Betts, saw Gary Lee, players that we…I got reminded about one.  They taped us to a cross pull up bar by our wrists and hung us there one time.  Dad cut us down on the way home to dinner.  I forgot about that one; thanks Rick, I appreciate it (laughter).  A lot of great stories about the told days and now to see the guys in the Michigan uniforms now, for me, I’m old enough to be most of their dads I guess, but I see it the same way.  As see them as those guys, those guys that we looked up to.  When you’re a Michigan football player, it is a very special thing.”

Question:  A lot of people didn’t think your brother would leave the NFL to come to college football, not even Michigan, but do you see a different level of happiness with him here?

John Harbaugh:  “I probably didn’t see it either.  I thought he would stay in the NFL.  He was probably hoping and he was hoping that it would work out there for the longest time.  It didn’t and what I see from a happiness standpoint is a coach and a brother that is back to being focused on the things that he wants to be focused on, which is the players and coaches, and developing the program and being the best football team that they can be.  He has incredible support here, from the athletic director, the university president – everybody.  When you are a football coach and you have that kind of support, you feel like you’re all rowing in the same direction and that’s really a great thing and he’s got that here.”

Question:  Give us some examples of his competitive nature.  You guys are probably still pretty competitive.

John Harbaugh:  “Yeah, we don’t wrestle any more, thank god.  He’s got me by a few pounds, although I see he’s getting in shape now too, so I guess that worries me.  We still play golf and compete.  I won the last time we played, but he claims he won.  So that kind of explains how it is going right now.  We’re going to play nine holes of golf, because we have time for nine holes before the wives and kids are coming over for dinner.  So we’re going to go play nine holes of golf.  Jim is a good golfer, he has been a four or five handicap in the past and I’m not a good golfer, but I’m playing well that day and I beat him by a hole.  He’s like, we’ve got a little more time still, let’s play a couple more holes.  I’m like okay, we can play a couple more holes.  He congratulated me and we play a couple more holes and I end up paring and he hits one within two feet, second shot over a lake and ends up birding the hole.  The next one, he eagles and I get a birdie, but he gets an eagle.  So he had two great holes there, but these were the two extra holes as I reminded him.  He claims now that he won now by one stroke.  I’m like there are no 11 hole golf matches, they don’t have those in golf.  I won the last time we played.”

Question:  Are you interested in seeing the transition to the NFL to college, can he make that smooth transition at this stage?

John Harbaugh:  “Yeah no question he can make it and make it well.  There is no doubt that Michigan is going to win.  The variable is going to be time and how fast they pick it up and how the ball bounces and those kinds of things.  They’ve got a bunch of good players out there who love to practice and love football.  There is no question that he is going to make the transition perfectly well.”

Question:  I imagine you saw the headlines a week ago, you’re brother helped an accident victim on I-94 East, tweets Judge Judy, is that unusual or the kind of personality that he has.

John Harbaugh:  “That’s his personality.  My wife and I laugh, you open up the news and he wearing…he’s coaching the Oakland As now too, man he gets around, full regalia.  He’s got time.  That’s who he is, he loves being out and about and being with people.  I remember when he was a Colts player, he pulled over in a rain storm and changed a ladies tire.  That story has been told before.  He and Jim Minick, I got the story, I guess the car flipped over, rolled over, tumbled over, at least 50 yards and Jim Minick first reaction to the accident was, ‘there is nobody that is going to survive that accident.’  They get there and Jim Minick is a former marine, so he’s seen things.  He was pretty poised about the whole thing and then they realized that everybody was a survivor, so they were pretty fired up.  So like Jim said, I didn’t do anything other than just be there and they made a phone call to the EMS.  It’s pretty cool, pretty amazing story.  How many people drive by so they don’t miss there flight at the airport, I don’t think very many people honestly.  I think most people pull off, pull over and help out, that’s what most people do.  So it was really no different in that sense.”

Question:  Jim has talked a lot about being an ambassador for football.  He feels like the sport is under attack, I don’t know what your message is today, but do you feel that way about the game?

John Harbaugh:  “I do and that’s going to be part of the message.  It’ll be harder to articulate it right now, I hope I do a good job.  I’ve got part of it that I’m going to just read because it is so important and it’s something that my dad feels really strongly about and football is under attack, which is okay.  Our country is under attack, our culture is under attack, from inside and from the outside and in a lot of ways mostly from the outside.  We talk to our team all the time, it’s us versus them.  We stand for something here and football is a big part of that.  It’s hard to explain what makes football great and what makes football important but I’m going to try and do that in the talk, because the high school football coach is the one that makes football what it is.  We look at the high school football coaches; the teachers, the principal, the other students are always looking to the high school football coach for direction and leadership, about what it means to be part of the team and how direct young men into becoming quality young men and that’s part of what makes football great.”

Question:  What was your message yesterday to the players?

John Harbaugh:  “My message to the players was you got a fighter for a coach.  I told them a story about one of our fights that he came out on top at the end, the last fight we ever had.  I told the story at the Super Bowl kind of briefly how he almost drowned me down one time.  They loved that.  They got a big kick out of that.  The message basically was that’s who they are and that’s why they’re at Michigan.  They’re going to fight, they’re going to battle, they’re going to be in every game, they’re going to be in every game at the end because it matters more who they’re playing against.  That’s why they’re out there practicing the way they’re practicing.  They’ve got a bunch of great guys.”

Question:  What was your impression of watching most the practice?

John Harbaugh:  “It was great.  It was fun.  It was a Michigan practice.  It was physical.  The guys really practiced hard.  It was demanding, as Jim told the guy, you’re building calluses.  You callus your football character, toughness, your body.  He pulled a classic Bo.  I know the guys thought Bo was back, but he threw everybody out of practice.  Did you guys hear about that?  Am I not supposed to talk about that?  I don’t know.  One time it got a little crazy because there were so many people there visiting.  He had about halfway through, everybody out of here.  I turned around, Rick Leach turned around and everybody turned around and started walking away.  He goes, no John, you can stay (laughter).  Oh thanks (laughter).  The old players were laughing about it because they thought, that’s exactly what Bo would have done.  As much as anything it was for his team.  I think the people that love Michigan that were there understand.  He was making a point to his team… this is about football, that’s why we’re here.”

Question:  What does it mean to your dad to have his son here and be around now?

John Harbaugh:  “It means a lot for my dad.  I was busting my dad’s chops yesterday because there was a report that the Michigan family was pushing Jim to Michigan…or the Harbaugh family was pushing Jim to Michigan.  I took it personally, I’m like, I’m not pushing him anywhere.  I want him to stay in the NFL.  I think dad might have been pushing Jim to Michigan, there might have been a kernel of truth to the story.  He’s really excited.  My mom Jackie, she’s fired up.  They’re doing great.”

Question:  Is the NFL your home or would you consider coming to college?

John Harbaugh:  “Jim’s got the Michigan job now, so I guess that’s out.  No I didn’t consider it when it was talked about because…the NFL is my home and the Ravens are my home.  That’s my team.  That’s my job.  Steve Bisciotti is a great friend and a great mentor, and I wouldn’t want to be coaching anywhere else, so I’m really hoping I can end my career in Baltimore with a couple more Super Bowls or whatever the number might be under our belt.  I feel like I got the greatest job in the world and I feel like Jim has got the other greatest job in the world.”

Question:  Michigan’s coming off a couple of seasons that are un-Michigan like.  How long does it take for a coach to impose his personality on a program, that toughness that you talked about, the competitiveness that you talked about? 

John Harbaugh:  “It takes about one conversation with your team to sort of speak as you put it, I don’t know if imposes would be a word I’d use, but it is a word that you used, that presence on the team.  That takes root, because right away now the team understands that’s our leader, that’s our direction and that’s who we’re going to be.  Now the process is to become that and you’ll see that on the Michigan team in varying degrees and as far as results with wins and losses, it just depends on how good they can get and how fast they can get that good.  It’s going to be a little tougher right now than the old days, it’s a bigger Big Ten, there are divisions now and it is not just Michigan and Ohio State any more.  It’s a great conference.  It’ll take as long as it takes, but it’s going to happen.”

The Michigan Insider Top Stories