The Baltimore Ravens coach was added to Miami University's Cradle of Coaches on Saturday. He unveiled a sculpture of himself with right arm raised in triumph on the Baltimore sideline — something he did only half the time last season at 8-8.
"I like the pose," he said. "That looks like a winning pose right there. That's one we usually take when we win. I feel good about the pose. I'd like to see that pose a few more times this year."
So would his alma mater.
The Mid-American Conference school put Harbaugh's induction on the fast track after he won the Super Bowl for the 2012 season. A display of statues on a plaza outside the football stadium honours Miami graduates who were honoured as national coaches of the year, inducted into the college or professional football halls of fame, or who have won collegiate or pro championships.
Harbaugh's is the ninth statue on the plaza, joining the likenesses of Earl "Red" Blaik, Paul Brown, Carm Cozza, Paul Dietzel, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, John Pont and Bo Schembechler.
The 1984 Redhawks' graduate chose Schembechler's mantra of "the team, the team, the team" as part of the inscription below his statue. Harbaugh's father, Jack, was an assistant to Schembechler at Michigan.
He compared the honour to Bubba Watson winning his second Masters.
"This cradle is the greatest honour in coaching, if you understand what it's all about," Harbaugh said. "It's like Bubba Watson said last week. He was asked, 'You ever dream of something like this?' He said, 'Naw, my dreams never got this far.' That's exactly how I feel."
David Sayler, the school's athletic director, noted that many football recruits aren't familiar with the other honoured coaches, but they know about Harbaugh.
"John is going to serve as a link to this generation to all of this around us (on the plaza)," Sayler said. "So it brings it back to the forefront and makes it relevant again and makes people talk about it again."
Miami is coming off one of the worst seasons in its history. The RedHawks went 0-12, only the fourth time since 1900 that they failed to win a game. Coach Don Treadwell was fired after the first five losses, replaced by offensive co-ordinator Mike Bath for the rest of the season. In December, Miami hired Notre Dame offensive co-ordinator Chuck Martin as the next head coach.
Harbaugh talked to the returning players over the weekend and watched some of their spring practice on Saturday. He also wore a hard hat and dug a shovel of dirt as part of a ground-breaking ceremony for a new covered practice field nearby.
During an interview, he said was thinking of eventually becoming a coach when he was a defensive back at the school.
"When you grow up as a coach's kid, you're probably always thinking about it," he said. "I was probably trying to think about getting through the next day and getting to the next class, but I think it's always on your mind as a coach's kid."
Next on his mind is a Ravens' turnaround. They overhauled their roster to fit under the salary cap after their Super Bowl season, and it didn't turn out well. Baltimore finished at .500 and missed the playoffs for the first time in Harbaugh's six seasons as coach.
Off-season workouts start Monday for the Ravens.
"Maybe it's the same mentality as Miami right now," he said. "Maybe we're really hungry. Maybe we've got a little bit of a chip on our shoulders. Our guys are excited about getting started."
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