Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh says it's easy to spot excellence, and he knew it the first time he saw Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Turnley's work. The two have become friends and worked together to bring a one-of-a-kind book of photos to Michigan fans.
“Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind" features 300-plus black-and-white photographs and Harbaugh's "15 principles" on which he built the Michigan program - the writing was harder than he thought it would be, he admitted in a Friday press conference.
Harbaugh’s portion of the proceeds will be used to help construct Michigan's new weight room.
One photo stood of the more than 78,000 snapped stood out, Harbaugh said - a photo of Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno sitting on the bleachers after a particularly discouraging fall practice.
“It was early in training camp and we had had one of those kinds of practices,” Harbaugh said. “I remember that distinctly like it was yesterday ... ‘We’re never going to win a game. We’ll be lucky if we win one game,’ and he was saying the same thing. We couldn’t get stuff picked up or protected ... [it was], 'don’t let me climb the stairs of the Bell Tower. I might jump off.”
Turnley was with the program nearly every day for a year starting last spring and is "part of the program now," Harbaugh said. He even has a parking spot at Schembechler Hall. He's a man of the world, but he ranked shooting the U-M program among his highlights.
“I’ve shot Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, General Norman Schwarzkopf, [President] Obama, and you see the same ... stars in the eyes with Coach Harbaugh,” Turnley said. “One of the things I’ve always been interested in as a photographer is you feel whatever it is you’re a part of, that you’re just not standing on the sideline observing from a place of safety. But you have to smell it; you have to touch it, and you have to feel it. I’m always interested in the grit.
“The privilege of being in the locker room before the game, the middle of the game and after the game is really something,” Turnley said Friday at a news conference introducing the book. “It is a bonding experience. It is incredibly special. Maybe the photograph speaks to it in a way I could never really do with words. But it’s profoundly special and very touching and something you don’t get to experience very often in life."
Which was one of Harbaugh's goals in the endeavor. He wanted every player featured with a memory that would last forever.
"I made a poster for Christmas [of my dad watching practice]," Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich said. "As soon as he saw it ... I've never seen my dad cry, but he broke down in tears. To see how powerful that picture was is a testament [to the quality]."
The book also features a letter Harbaugh wrote to the team the day after its last-second home loss against Michigan State stating how every season is like a book in itself.
"If the next five games go as we would like them, 2015 will be remembered as one of the best of all time, Harbaugh wrote. "If not it will be another book on the shelf, only to be looked back on sparingly."
Turnley graduated from Michigan in 1977 and spent two weeks with the program as a walk-on before realizing he wasn't cut out for it.
“I can’t really say enough how special this experience is for me on so many different levels that, in an interesting way, has brought my life in a kind of full circle,” he said. “It's just really a special group of men, and Coach Harbaugh is an extraordinarily special person. It’s all pretty great.”
The collector’s edition (17 x 14) is $150, and the fanatic edition (12 x 9.5) is $75. All online orders (fosterpark.net) will be shipped later this month, and the book will also be available locally at the M Den at the end of the month.