Jim Harbaugh is known as one of the most competitive, intense, and odd men in all of football.
Heading into his first season as head coach of University of Michigan, his alma mater, there’s been no shortage of stories about Harbaugh’s intensity throughout the various coaching stops in his career.
Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free-Press has one of the most hilarious, odd stories that exemplifies Harbaugh’s intensity and dedication.
Albom tells a story about seeing Harbaugh at a play in Michigan. Albom says he was developing a new “charity venture” and gave Harbaugh a paper cup for it before the play.
When he saw Harbaugh after the play, Albom asked if he still had the cup. Harbaugh, nervously, admitted he used it for chewing tobacco during the play. As Albom was about to tell him to forget about it, that it was no big deal, Harbaugh set off on a mission to recover the cup. Albom writes:
Before I could finish the words “never mind,” he was running across the theatre. He raced to a trash can.
“Jim” I yelled, “really, no big — “
Too late. He was rifling through the trash. He found the cup, came marching back examining it — and then apparently decided it was too dirty to return. He turned and ran to an usher.
“Excuse me,” he said, “where’s the nearest bathroom?”
“Jim!” I hollered. “I don’t need it that — “
He ignored me. Ignored everything. He ran downstairs, washed the cup out, came jogging into the theatre and handed it over, finally making eye contact. I sincerely doubt he ever heard a word I said. He had a mission. He went after it.
By the way, the cup was clean.
This sort of thing is typical for Harbaugh. Recently, Harbaugh told Lars Anderson of Bleacher Report about how he was once so fascinated with the work a traffic cop was doing at an intersection that he pulled over and watched her for a half-hour.
Harbaugh’s personality can wear on people. A former NFL teammate told Anderson:
“You can’t even have long meetings with him because his mind will start to wander and you’ll have no freaking idea what he’s talking about. His personality and his weirdness wear people down over time, and after four, five years, you just don’t want to deal with the guy anymore.”
Nonetheless, Harbaugh’s record speaks for itself, and he’s been successful at every coaching stop he’s made. While he may be intense and bizarre, there’s little doubt that he’ll help improve Michigan this season.
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