Jim Harbaugh, the hero.
And a hero’s welcome it was.
Outside the building, a caricature depicting the coach in his new Saturday garb stood out amongst those donning celebratory khakis. A packed crowd inside the Crisler Center awaited his arrival and roared at his sight. The day-long festivities in Ann Arbor bested those of a presidential appearance.
All for Jim Harbaugh, the homecoming king.
Harbaugh is a man of many titles. But his newest one means the most to the Wolverine faithful: Michigan’s man. He was introduced as the 20th coach in program history Dec. 30, days after leaving the San Francisco 49ers.
After a 5-7 season marred by disappointment and controversy, Harbaugh is exactly what Michigan needs.
But do not call him a savior; it’s not a likened title.
“I’m not comfortable with that at all,” Harbaugh said. “As I said, I’m standing on a foundation that’s been built over 100 years by some great men. I feel like I’m standing on their shoulders. I want to do a good job. I want to be good. I want to win on the practice field, the classroom and the community. We want to win on fall Saturday afternoons, and we have great expectations for that.”
Before he became a coaching sensation or even played a down of football at Michigan, a young Harbaugh had a dream: he wanted to coach the Wolverines.
Like most dreams, it did not happen overnight. Harbaugh starred at quarterback for Michigan from 1982-1986 and began a 14-year NFL career before hopping into the coaching ranks. Almost 30 years later, he found himself back home, back at Michigan.
“There have been times in my life where I’ve thought and dreamed about it. Now it’s time to live it,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve thought about being coach at Michigan, my dad coached at Michigan. That was something I really looked up to and wanted to emulate from the time I was a youngster.”
Jim Harbaugh, the accomplished dreamer.
As he accepted Michigan’s head coaching position, Harbaugh serenaded the audience in attendance with whimsical tales.
He recalled sitting in Bo Schembechler’s office chair as a youth with his feet on the coach’s desk, dreaming that it would be his one day. Or the time Schembechler told Harbaugh that he would never play a down of football in his career at Michigan.
Between the one-liners and laughs, Harbaugh thanked the university for providing his children with gift bags after flying into southeastern Michigan, bringing upon another childhood story of when he would save up enough money to shop for Block M apparel at Moe’s Sports Shops.
Jim Harbaugh, the storyteller.
Over the past decade, Harbaugh has compiled a marvelous career as a head coach. He won 18-straight games at San Diego, transformed Stanford into a west-coast power and revitalized the San Francisco 49ers.
Throughout Michigan’s search for a coach, many questioned the talent on its youthful roster. Quarterback, specifically. But Harbaugh is a master when it comes to quarterback development. See: Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith.
That’s a lot of building done by Harbaugh.
“I look at it like I’m going to construct a home or as a construction architect,” Harbaugh said. “I think of myself as more of a construction guy. You build a home, and hopefully it’s a great cathedral. Then afterwards, they go tell you to build another one. There’s some dirt down there, go build another home.”
Harbaugh’s next construction project is in Ann Arbor. But he’s ready for a permanent residence. Michigan, his home, offers just that, along with another title.
“I’m at that point where even though you’ve done well and built some pretty nice homes, you have to do it again, and you have to prove it again,” Harbaugh said. “But I would really like to live in one permanently. That’s what I’m very hopeful for here.”
Jim Harbaugh, the permanent resident.