Former San Francisco 49ers coach and now University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is known as one of the most intense, competitive coaches out there. He was widely respected for coaching the 49ers to a Super Bowl and two conference championships, but his relationship with the team’s front office wasn’t all that stable because of Harbaugh’s demeanor.
ESPN’s Seth Wickersham wrote a long profile on Harbaugh, highlighting the coach’s fiery intensity and competitiveness. Other sources have also documented Harbaugh’s antics.
Here are some of the most amusing, startling examples, Michigan players and coaches are in for a real treat.
He taunted Peyton Manning during a recruiting visit in 2012.
According to Wickersham, when Peyton Manning was a free agent in the summer of 2012, he paid a visit to the San Francisco 49ers to explore signing with them. Manning and Harbaugh were playing catch during the meeting when Harbaugh commented that “his passes had more mustard on them” than Manning’s. Manning signed with the Denver Broncos that summer.
He used to the run the hills with players at University of San Diego, continuing on through his own vomit.
With the 49ers, he makes the winning team in scrimmages run sprints after two-minute practice.
49ers tight end Vernon Davis said, “He’s really good at making it suck.”
While coaching in San Diego, he practiced push-ups every day, just to prove to players he could do 100 in a row.
According to MLive, Harbaugh could only manage 30 push-ups in a row at first. Over time, he got to 100, then 110, changing grips and technique to show off.
At a team meeting early in the season, Harbaugh delivered a typed, eight-page, passionate, borderline crazed speech to the team.
According to Wickersham, the speech involved never letting up on a play, enduring pain, and killing an opponent. One particularly abstract segment went: “My opponent is going to have to die. But does he have to kill me too? He is killing me. But he has a right to. I have never seen a greater opponent than him.”
He fired several coaches and stripped another coach of offensive responsibility after Stanford’s first winning season in eight years.
One of the fired staff members was a friend and former player who had attended Harbaugh’s wedding.
As a player, he got into a giant feud with his coach Mike Ditka after ignoring Ditka’s orders and calling an audible for a pass play that turned into a pick-six.
Harbaugh left the Bears the next season. The two later healed their relationship, and Harbaugh has a framed note from Ditka that reads, “I am still — believe it or not — your greatest fan.”
Harbaugh hunted down a 10-year-old in laser tag at his own bachelor party.
The story of Harbaugh’s competitiveness, even at his bachelor party, was revealed by MLive. Erik Bakhtiari, a former player under Harbaugh said, “All his shots came against this 10-year-old kid. He just sat there, hunting this 10-year-old kid so he could win.”
Practice comes first, even on the days of special events, like the opening ceremony of the 49ers’ new stadium.
Harbaugh held a rookie practice that day, meaning team assistants and players’ wives and families couldn’t attend the ceremony. Harbaugh also showed up to the ceremony, with Roger Goodell in attendance, wearing a black 49ers sweatshirt and khakis.
He has a rivalry with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, dating back to 2007 when Harbaugh joined Stanford and Carroll coached USC.
According to a USA Today, when Harbaugh joined Stanford, he questioned Carroll’s future job security, claiming “We bow to no man; we bow to no program here at Stanford.”
After a game in 2009, Harbaugh was so intense and fiery on the sidelines, when the two met at centerfield, Carroll asked, “What’s your deal?”
During the 2011 NFL lockout, Harbaugh “willed himself” to keep up in athletic challenges with 49ers’ GM Trent Baalke.
According to NFL.com, Baalke was in much better shape, but Harbuagh refused to fall behind in push-up counts and bench presses. Harbaugh, despite balky knees, also pushed himself to beat Baalke in racquetball, to the point where Harbaugh couldn’t walk normally for two days after.
He is already scouting and preparing for his 1-year-old son to play football.
When Barack Obama said he’d have to seriously think before letting his son play football, Harbaugh responded (via Yahoo):
“If President Obama feels that way, then there will be a little less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets old enough… But he’s a really big kid. He’s got an enormous head… As soon as he grows into that head, he’s going to be something… expectations are high for young Jack.”
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