As he did on just about everyone else in the game of football, John Madden had a big impact on Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Madden’s preferred style of football — power runs with big guys clearing holes — is Harbaugh’s as well. After Harbaugh’s Wolverines secured a signature win over Ohio State this year by doing just that, rushing for 297 yards and imposing their will on the Buckeyes, Harbaugh heard from the old coach.
“I got a great text from John Madden, and John Madden said that this is as good an offensive line performance as he’s seen in a football game,” Harbaugh said following the Ohio State game.
Since then, Michigan’s offensive line has won the Joe Moore Award as the best in the country. On Friday night, they’ll go up against a heralded Georgia front seven and try to replicate their success in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
“They’ve been fantastic,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve been strong. That shows up in a lot of ways. The group have stayed healthy pretty much all season long. … They look like they’re moving around in the fourth quarter as well as they were in the first quarter. In shape, strong, smart, cohesive group.”
Madden’s approval, though, is as meaningful as any award. Harbaugh said he forwarded the text to offensive line coach Sherrone Moore, telling him to keep it on his phone forever.
Following Madden’s death this week, Harbaugh released a statement extolling the former Raiders coach for his impact on the game. Asked about it Thursday morning, he noted Madden’s cross-generational impact.
“Everybody knows John Madden,” Harbaugh said. “Jack Harbaugh [his father], 82 [years old], me, 58, down to my son who’s 9 years old, and the players and the Madden game. Just so many ways he’s affected not just the game of football, but in so many ways. A great man. Just a great man, a legend.”
There’s another connection between Madden and the Michigan program. Madden’s grandson, Jesse, is a walk-on quarterback for the Wolverines.
“On our team, he’s adored,” Harbaugh said. “He’s contributing, been a big factor to our success.
“The day John Madden passed away, I looked over there and saw Jesse Madden. There’s a Madden on the football field contributing to this team’s success, and his grandfather would be very proud.”
Harbaugh described safety Daxton Hill’s status as questionable and said as of Thursday morning, he had yet to join the team in Florida.