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Why Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh squatted during a recruiting visit to Jesuit

Yes, the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is involved. Why wouldn’t it be?
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, seen here during a spring practice session at Bradenton's IMG Academy, had a memorable recruiting visit at Jesuit High this week.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, seen here during a spring practice session at Bradenton's IMG Academy, had a memorable recruiting visit at Jesuit High this week. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 21|Updated Jan. 21

During Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting stop at Jesuit High on Thursday, Harbaugh made a very Harbaugh request. He asked to lift weights — in his dress clothes.

A photo of a squatting Harbaugh made the rounds on social media afterward. The story, as told by Jesuit coach Matt Thompson, is as simple as you’d expect.

Thompson said he was in his weightlifting class when Harbaugh and a handful of other Michigan staffers came to making a recruiting visit to the reigning Class 6A state champions.

“Hey, Coach, mind if I get a set?” Harbaugh asked Thompson.

“Yeah, knock yourself out, Coach,” Thompson replied.

Harbaugh did. He was not wearing a jacket, Thompson said, so there was nothing extra to take off. He did not change out of his slacks, nor did he change shoes.

“He got down there and just started repping them out,” Thompson said.

Harbaugh had done 15 reps when Jesuit’s junior varsity coach — an Ohio State graduate — mentioned that Buckeyes coach Ryan Day was there a day earlier. He joked that Day did 16 reps.

So Harbaugh continued, adding in five more to give him an even 20. Or four more than Day’s fictional total.

Thompson’s Tigers are teeming with young talent, which is why Thompson has seen a revolving door of recruiters recently. Troy Bowles is a top-50 national prospect in the 2023 class. Running back Joquez Smith, receiver Jarriett Buie and offensive lineman Wesley Shaw are also getting looks in that cycle, while defensive end/linebacker Peter Pesansky is a promising 2024 recruit.

Jesuit High's Troy Bowles is a top-50 national recruit in the 2023 class.
Jesuit High's Troy Bowles is a top-50 national recruit in the 2023 class. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times (2021) ]

None of those players, however, were in Thompson’s class at the time. No varsity players were. The students were still impressed.

“They were like, ‘Wow, look at this guy,’” Thompson said. “They’re just eating it up, man. They’re just in awe of him.”

Harbaugh and the Wolverines are not strangers to the Tampa Bay area. Jaylen Harrell — a former top-300 recruit from Berkeley Prep — started three games at linebacker as a sophomore last season. East Lake High product Mason Cole started 51 games on the offensive line at Michigan and just finished his fourth season in the NFL.

Harbaugh made at least one other local visit Thursday, stopping at Wiregrass Ranch in Wesley Chapel.

Harbaugh’s long-term future is in question amidst questions about whether he is eyeing a return to the NFL, potentially with the Raiders. Thompson said that subject was not discussed.

What will be discussed for quite some time in Tampa, however, was Harbaugh’s random recruiting workout — the latest sign of his all-football-all-the-time mentality.

“I guess that’s just Harbaugh being Harbaugh,” Thompson said.

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