Growing up in Ohio, surrounded by family and friends who were all buckeye fans, I remember watching a Michigan quarterback guaranteeing a victory against those Buckeyes. That guarantee became truth and it was spoken by none other than Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh was a four-year letterman for the Michigan Wolverines at the quarterback position from 1982-1986. He was a three-year starter under coach Bo Schembechler beginning his sophomore season. Playing Michigan State the fifth game of the season, Jim suffered a broken arm that ended his season.
Coming back in his junior year with a chip on his shoulder, Harbaugh led his team to a great 10-1-1 season. Some say this was the best season Bo ever had as a coach. Although the season started on a funny note, it ended victoriously. On the first play of the first game back from injury, Harbaugh stepped up to the line to call the play, tapped center Bob Tabachino on the hip and asked him what it was on. He forgot the play count. This was Tabachino’s first start at center. The center said, “That, to me, he’s just so intense and so excited and such a competitor.” Jim never lost his intensity the rest of his career and it has carried over to his coaching as well. During that spectacular year Harbaugh and the Wolverines defeated OSU and went on to beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl. They finished second in the polls for the season. Harbaugh led the nation in pass efficiency that year.
His senior year was much of the same greatness we saw in his prior season. Michigan went 11-2 along with an invite to the esteemed Rose Bowl. This is the year I remember the big guarantee. Harbaugh said at a Monday press conference that Michigan would beat the Buckeyes and go on to the Rose Bowl. He delivered on his statement. The Wolverines went into a hostile Columbus environment and won 26-24, sending them on to Pasadena. Jim not only talked the talk but he showed he could also walk the walk. He would then be named the Big Ten Conference player of the year and to the all-academic team. Harbaugh finished third in the Heisman voting.
At the end of his college career he would be in the top five in Michigan football history for passing attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns. To date he still is sixth in passing yards and seventh for career completions. Jim held the record for NCAA division 1-A passing efficiency(325-399) for 12 years. He was also the first Michigan QB to pass for over 5,000 yards.
Harbaugh would be the 26th pick in the 1987 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. He was their leader for the next six years before moving on the the Colts. After a long career in the NFL, Jim turned to coaching. He would eventually become head coach for the University of San Diego, Stanford and currently the San Francisco 49ers. He has gone from Michigan QB to Super Bowl coach.
He continues to have the same intensity, passion for the game and desire to be the best, just like what we first saw when he wore the famous winged helmet for the Wolverines. Jim Harbaugh is one of the Michigan greats and one of the reasons I became a Michigan fan. Congratulations, Coach Harbaugh, on all your success on this throwback Thursday.