The Wolverine

August 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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do not care what anybody else thinks." He's got a point. At the same time, there's a big difference between a guy who does it irresponsibly — "You can't spell Citrus without U-T," Spur- rier once said of Tennessee's failure to make the coveted Sugar Bowl during his years at Florida — and someone who only fires back when fired upon. And make no mistake … Harbaugh is a popular target these days, so much so that he based his keynote speech at the Detroit Sound Mind, Sound Body Camp in June on the vir- tue of remaining thick skinned. "It just hit me recently that it's re- ally everybody [who gets made fun of]," he said. "Everybody has some- thing they get made fun of … for me it was my name, crooked teeth as a kid, the clothes I wore, on and on. "The list is so long. Then you realize as an adult it's the same, sometimes even worse. Just because somebody is putting you down doesn't mean you have to get down on yourself. In fact, you can use it as motivation, as fuel to prove them wrong … and people should be making fun of your goals and dreams. If they're not making fun of those, then your dreams aren't big enough." Asked if he noticed people mak- ing fun of him, he responded with a hearty laugh. "Yeah," he said. "Don't they? You know they do. It's a constant thing." Unlike Spurrier, though, he's the provoked, not the provoker. He'll respond when criticized, but the only fight he's looking for is on the football field — as he often says, "in the spirit of fair and honest competition." That's not always the case in the "anything goes" SEC, of course, which is probably part of the reason Harbaugh is pushing the envelope. It's clear, though, that there's other motivation behind his methods on the satellite camp tour. "I got a wonderful text [from a family]," he said after teaching at a 700-player camp in New Jersey. "It makes you feel great and very gratify- ing. Everybody is seeing the good … not everybody, but a lot of people — the ones that count." In other words, not the talking heads, but the folks who are getting opportunities they otherwise might not. Defensive line coach Greg Mat- tison admitted he got a bit emotional when one underprivileged family ap- proached him in sincere thanks. "Where else would you rather be? That's the message you're getting from all the coaches," Harbaugh said. "There's such a joy you get out of it. "St. Francis was right … in the giv- ing, you receive. Some people ques- tion how we're doing it, how we're holding up. We do what we love. This is what we love to do. We love to coach … love to teach." Those who want to question that had best be prepared for a well-de- served return shot across the bow. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolverine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at Balas_Wolverine.

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