Michigan football: Wolverines RB coach Mike Hart is more than just a 'Michigan Man'
Brady Hoke, former Michigan coach, basically ran the saying “Michigan Man” into the ground during his stay in Ann Arbor. The tired cliché was thrown around at any given opportunity — a way to appease the Wolverines fanbase.
This past season — and really, the past two years — UM fans have taken to social media to express their desire for changes in the coaching ranks. Get (insert name of former star here) to coach his old position group. Never mind the fact that, say, Charles Woodson, has never coached a day in his life — fans wanted him to coach the secondary (mainly cornerbacks). Never mind the fact that Tom Brady, who’s 43 and still playing in the NFL, has never coached QBs — UM fans wanted him to join the offensive staff in Ann Arbor.
Some even wanted Brady to take over as head coach.
All of the “Michigan Man” talk has run its course. Please, speak no more!
However, on Wednesday (Jan. 13), the Wolverines announced the hiring of a legendary former player — a true Wolverines favorite — in Mike Hart, who left Indiana to join Jim Harbaugh’s crew. Yes, Hart is the program’s career-leader in rushing yards. Yes, he famously coined the phrase “Little Brother,” in reference to Michigan State in 2007. And yes, he was always adored by 110,000-plus fans in the stands during home games in the fall.
But look at Hart as much more than some token UM hero. Look at the 32-year-old for what he really is: A fantastic football coach, mentor and teacher of the game. His track record proves as much, so his Wolverines lineage shouldn’t really mean too much in the grand scheme of things.
Yes, it’s cool for UM fans. They probably needed some cheery news after a 2-4 season that Indiana — Hart’s former team — helped make one of the worst in UM history.
But just because Hart went to Michigan, doesn’t mean that he should only be viewed in that light.
“I am excited about the addition of Mike Hart to our offensive coaching staff,” said Harbaugh, per a UM release. “Mike is a great coach and Michigan Man who has shown the ability to develop and elevate the performance of the running backs that he has mentored. We look forward to welcoming Mike, Monique and their children to the Michigan Football family.”
Damn it, Jim!
Everything you said was on-point … but you just had to throw in that “Michigan Man” label.
This wasn’t a gimmicky hire. This was absolutely the hiring of one of the top young assistants in the game.
Say that, Jim!
The “Michigan Man” stuff only caters to “that” brand of Wolverines fan.
You know the type.
Most UM fans with common sense and the ability to view the world without Maize and Blue goggles would probably appreciate less pandering to emotion, history and all of that UM folklore.
Most of them wouldn’t care if Hart played at Middle Northern Community College (not a real school, obviously) — they just want someone who can help raise the bar in the Wolverines’ backfield — which is littered with talent but needs direction.
Hart is that guy. He knows what it means to compete. As a freshman in 2004, he was behind at least three other running backs until he got a shot to show his stuff. After running over San Diego State — 21 times for 125 yards — during Week 3, Hart proved to his coaching staff that he was indeed able to lead the way.
From then on, he was the premier back at Michigan until his senior year of 2007.
That should mean something. Not where he played, but how he played.
Hart has climbed the coaching ladder, so he should be appreciated for his hustle, dedication and love for the game — not because he wore a winged helmet. Oh, and try to forget how he cursed UM in regard to MSU for roughly a decade with his “Little Brother” mock of the Spartans.
That probably wasn’t necessary to include, but hey — why not?
After a brief NFL career, Hart’s path to the big-time started at directional schools in Michigan. First, he coached RBs at Eastern Michigan (2012-13), then he hopped from Ypsilanti to Kalamazoo, taking the same position at Western Michigan (2014-15). After that, he went to Syracuse for the 2016 season and then joined Indiana, where he went from running backs coach to associate head coach — still coaching RBs, though — in just three years.
Talk about that.
Focus on his accomplishments, not his “Michigan Man” label. Focus on the fact that Hart can coach as well as any up-and-coming assistant in college football.
It’s fine for Hart to be a little sentimental about all of this. There is nothing wrong with having a soft spot for your alma mater.
“Michigan has always held a special place in my heart,” Hart said, per the UM release. “It is a place that always believed in me and a place that I have always believed in. I am excited to join Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan staff, and can’t wait to get to work with a talented running back group.”
However, he’s not touting that “Michigan Man” talk. He probably realizes that his college days had very little to do — or should have, at least — with his hiring in Ann Arbor.
Hopefully, the rest of the staff and program acknowledges him for his coaching prowess and not the way he ran the ball at The Big House from 2004-07. Don’t discount Hart. Give the man his props.
He’s a great coach who just happened to play football at Michigan.
End of rant.