Thursday, March 08, 2007

Passing the torch: From one All-American QB to another

Michigan is known as "Quarterback U" and has produced many NFL signal-callers (Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac, Todd Collins, Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese, Tom Brady, Drew Henson, and John Navarre) in succession. However, for all the success that the Wolverines' quarterbacks have enjoyed in the modern era (1969-present), only two Michigan quarterbacks achieved All-American status during their college careers- Rick Leach (1978) and Jim Harbaugh (1986). These two All-America quarterbacks share a special bond. During Rick Leach's playing days in the mid-1970's (1975-1978), Jim Harbaugh served as a ball boy for the Wolverine football team starting when he was nine-years-old. Jim's dad, Jack Harbaugh, was an Assistant Football Coach under Coach Schembechler from 1972-1979 and a young Jim Harbaugh had an all-access pass to Michigan games and practices because of his dad. Jim Harbaugh's favorite player was Rick Leach. Harbaugh was able to observe the All-American Leach and how he led the Michigan team. Among his other accomplishments, Leach led the Wolverines to three consecutive victories over Ohio State and he finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting his senior year. Several years later, Harbaugh committed to Michigan and he had the chance himself to play quarterback for Coach Schembechler and lead the Wolverines. Like his boyhood hero Leach, Harbaugh was an inspirational team leader. Harbaugh guided the Wolverines to back-to-back victories over Ohio State in 1985 and 1986. Additionally, the All-American Harbaugh also finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting his senior year just as Leach had done. Of all the stories in Michigan Football history about great quarterbacks, this tale of the connection between Leach and Harbaugh (the two most recent All-American quarterbacks) deserves a special place in Wolverine lore. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of ball boy Jim Harbaugh congratulating QB Rick Leach (7) on scoring a touchdown from Guts 'n Glue website.

*Note 2: Photo of Jim Harbaugh (4) from 10/25/86 Homecoming game against Indiana. Picture by Brad Mills who was a U-M student photographer.

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