INDIANAPOLIS—Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh looked comfortable when he walked into Indianapolis Bishop Chatard’s (Indianapolis) football facility this morning wearing his usual blue sweatshirt and khaki pants.
At Michigan’s first satellite camp of the month, he strode under a “Go Blue” banner, intended for the home teams, yet perfectly appropriate to welcome the Wolverines.
Standing inside a concession stand, fans found him and he gladly obliged their requests.
One man wanted him to autograph a 20-year-old Indianapolis Colts No. 4 jersey, from Harbaugh’s playing days. A steady stream of kids — and parents — wanted photos.
This likely will be the scene for the next 30 days, as Harbaugh and his coaching staff work their nationwide satellite camp tour of at least 35 sites.
Last year’s camp tour opening at Bishop Chatard was more tense, telling the campers at the start that he and his coaches could not talk about recruiting. On Wednesday, the subject was simply avoided.
A year ago, he was cautious about taking photos with kids because of how it could be interpreted by the NCAA as singling out certain players. This year, the camp lined up every camper for a photo with Harbaugh at the start so everyone had one.
There was a massive Michigan presence with seven assistants and a number of other U-M football staffers on hand to assist.
This was Harbaugh where he wanted to be, physically diving into the drills. Throwing in the quarterback competition, showing defensive backs how to backpedal, running backs to run with force and sucked in by the big hits.
His past favorite game of the rugby-style “Peru ball” was absent as he said there were too many other drills and competitions to jam into the three-hour event.
Ever the showman, Harbaugh took off his well-worn navy sweatshirt to reveal a blue Indianapolis Colts shirt with Andrew Luck’s name and number 12 on it.
On Wednesday, he spoke to the 220-plus campers — about 140 for football and another 80 for volleyball, lacrosse and cheerleading.
“This is your opportunity in the athletic world,” Harbaugh told them as the day began at 9 a.m., eschewing the microphone to use his “coach voice.” He implored that they “practice with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”
Then he ticked off his bullet points for the camp that they should “come away having learned something and be more confident about yourself” and “Meet somebody, strike up a friendship. … Make an ally.”
Proudly, he spoke about “something cool” from a day earlier. Harbaugh was packing to leave when his preschool-age son, Jack, told him he wanted to go on the trip.
“What that meant to me, I got wound up,” he said, with Jack a few feet away in an orange “Ditka” shirt for Harbaugh’s former Bears coach. “I’m never going to forget that, from now until I’m laid in the ground.”
Harbaugh’s point was that players should appreciate those around him. “Have an attitude of gratitude. Thank somebody when you leave here today.”
Harbaugh is putting twists on U-M’s three dozen camps when he can. In Indy, it was having former NFL quarterback and former Colt Matt Hasselbeck speak to the campers. Then Harbaugh gathered them to get started.
“Let’s have a winning day,” he told them. “Let’s go to bed a little sore, a little tired, knowing that we got better today.”