The Wolverine

March 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MARCH 2021 THE WOLVERINE 71 F ormer Michigan running back Mike Hart knew early in his U-M career he wanted to be a coach, and the thought never left him even when he was in the middle of his NFL ca- reer. He jumped at the opportunity when former Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English asked him to join his staff at Eastern Michigan in 2011, climbed the ladder during stops at Western Michigan, Syracuse and Indiana, and is finally back home in Ann Arbor. Hart started out as offensive qual- ity control at EMU before moving to running backs coach, the position he's held his entire career since. He joined Tom Allen's staff at Indiana in 2017, became assistant head coach in 2018 and 2019, and then was elevated to as- sociate head coach before finally join- ing Jim Harbaugh's staff in January. Hart played three years in the NFL and probably could have played more, but he knew coaching was his true passion. He wanted to get started as soon as he could, so he retired with gas left in the tank. "I've always loved the game. That's why I like recruiting players that love the game," Hart said on the In The Trenches podcast with Jon Jansen. "What football did for me in my life … I'm in the position I'm in now because of football. "Bill Spicer, my high school coach; [former Michigan coach] Lloyd Carr; [former U-M running backs coach] Fred Jackson — those relationships and what they did helped me grow as a man." Hart's job now is to find players who were like him as a recruit — kids who understand the sacrifice it takes to win at a place like Michigan. He never doubted himself, though others might have because of his size. At 5-10, 175 pounds coming out of high school, Hart had only a handful of offers, with many concerned about his stature and others about the level of competition he played in upstate New York. Former Michigan legend and the late Bo Schembechler was among them. Hart recalled walking into Schembechler Hall for the first time and encountering the coach outside the building only days after he ar- rived on campus. "The first I heard the voice of Bo was in the parking lot," Hart recalled. "The first time I met Bo was probably my third day on campus as a fresh- man. He was getting out of his car walking in and said, 'You're that Hart kid, huh?' I said, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'You're too small to play running back here.' And then he just kept walking. I was like, 'That's great.' Hart has met most of his running backs at this point, including red- shirt sophomore Hassan Haskins and a couple guys he recruited for Indiana in redshirt freshman Blake Corum and early enrollee Donovan Edwards. They started in on Zoom calls in preparation for spring ball after a state-recommended two-week shutdown on campus closed things down Jan. 24. He immediately got to work after a few hours of nostalgia, hitting the recruiting trail and looking for talent to help the program rebound after a tough 2-4 season. "I have to recruit the right kind of guy who is going to do well in my room with my coaching style," Hart said. "You coach every kid different. You have to be honest with them, so they know your vision for them and the way you do things. "We're just recruiting kids, No. 1, that fit the culture of your program; kids that will fit in your room. If you don't do that, you're going to butt heads all the time. "Try to build relationships, get to know kids, be brutally honest … but get the right kids. That's how you win. Hard workers. Nothing can re- place hard work; I don't care how many stars you have. You recruit run- ning backs that want to work hard." Obviously, he added, the No. 1 thing is talent. If they don't have it, he can't recruit them no matter how hard they work. But he's looking for players who love football, care about academics and are unselfish, just the way he was when played. The win- ning should then fall into place. Though it was hard to leave his guys behind at Indiana, Hart is thrilled to be home.   MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Mike Hart Feels At Home As U-M's New Running Backs Coach After coaching at Indiana from 2017-20, Hart returned to Michigan where he set the school career rushing record by piling up 5,040 yards from 2004-07. PHOTO COURTESY INDIANA UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS

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