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Posted on Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 3:21 p.m.

Mike Hart ready to return to Michigan Stadium as an Eastern Michigan assistant coach

By Nick Baumgardner


Mike Hart became Michigan's all-time leading rusher in this 2007 game against Eastern Michigan. On Saturday, he will return to Michigan Stadium as an Eastern Michigan assistant coach.

File photo

Mike Hart’s mindset hasn’t changed.

He’s entering Michigan Stadium on Saturday with the same attitude he had during his historic four-year college career. He’s got a job to do.

The only difference is, the record-setting former Michigan running back will be doing that job as a member of the road team.

Hart, who rushed for a Michigan football-record 5,040 career yards from 2004-07, will return to the place where he “grew up” as an opponent for the first time Saturday. Not as a player, but as an offensive quality control assistant at Eastern Michigan.


Mike Hart left the NFL and joined the Eastern Michigan coaching staff prior to fall camp.

Angela J. Cesere |

The last time Hart and the Eastern Michigan football team were at Michigan Stadium together, Hart broke Anthony Thomas' all-time rushing mark of 4,472 yards. The then-senior running back's 215 rushing yards and three touchdowns led the Wolverines to a 33-22 win over the Eagles in 2007. (Hart didn't play in the teams' 2005 matchup because of an injury.)

On Saturday, he’ll wear EMU green and white into the Big House -- and he couldn’t seem happier about it.

"I'm committed to this team and I'm glad I'm here. I want to be here,” said Hart, who was hired by EMU coach Ron English at the start of fall camp. “This is who I am, I am Eastern Michigan. I coach at Eastern Michigan. I want Eastern Michigan to win every game.

“I don't cheer for Michigan ever anymore. I watch (Michigan play) and I watch it as a coach."

Not only is he happy to be at EMU, he’s also thrilled to be in the coaching ranks.

Hart played three injury-plagued NFL seasons in Indianapolis -- gaining 264 rushing yards and two touchdowns in that time -- before the Colts made him an unrestricted free agent in January. He spent time working out, expecting to be signed somewhere else before the start of the 2011 season.

That didn’t happen, but Hart wasn’t overly concerned because he said his pro career got to a point where he saw football solely as a job.

And a job he wasn’t fond of.

“It was real business-like, I enjoyed it when I played but I didn't look forward to going to work every day,” he said. “And I never wanted to look at football like that. I was to a point where I was like 'I don't even know if I want to coach anymore.' That's when I knew it was time for me to get away (from the NFL).

“Not everybody likes their job, but I want to love my job. I love my job now and I never want to do something where I come in every day and not want to be there, and that's what (the NFL) was turning into."

At EMU, Hart’s role has him in the press box on game days, breaking down film with the coaching staff during the week and learning how to be a college football coach.

He says he works up to 15 hours a day in the film room and on the practice field, and is soaking up any knowledge he can get -- not just on offense, either.

“Last week we put Mike on defense,” English said Monday. “Our (defensive graduate assistant) had some illness, so he was on defense. And he went up there and did a fantastic job.

“He did what I expected him to do, and I expect a lot from Mike.”

English added that Hart also provides value to the program as a former player that had success at a high level, meaning he has the ability to communicate certain parts of the game to players that other coaches might not be able to do.

“Former players can say things to a player that’s a little bit different to a coach saying it to a player,” English said. “Them knowing that Mike’s true talents, if you will, weren’t necessarily physical, but more mental, emotional and intelligent -- and that helps.”

Hart says he’s thankful to be working alongside English, and happy to get a start at Eastern, the same place his college coach, Lloyd Carr, began his college coaching career.

He doesn’t even mind wearing green and white.

"These are my high school colors,” he smiled. “I like these colors, I think I look good in these colors.”

At peace with his decision to end his playing career and excited to begin the next phase of his life, Mike Hart’s ready to make his return to Michigan Stadium.

Asked if he was ready to make any guarantees for Saturday -- as he did prior to a Michigan win over Notre Dame in 2007 -- Hart declined.

He’s a coach now. Both in look and in sound.

"I don't have any predictions," Hart laughed. "We'll be there on Saturday to play a game."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.


Blu n Tpa

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

Hey, Nick Baumgardner, I would like to upgrade my top 5 night games for Michigan. Besides adding the UM-MN game to the list, I think there just might be a new NUMBER ONE. (I would have posted this direct to you but didn't see how.) TiM Go Blue!

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

Uh, TiM is part of my sign off. I shortened Coach Hoke's "This is Michigan" line to TiM. I don't think we will forget that night game any time soon. Easy date to remember 9/10/11.

Nick Baumgardner

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

Ha! Well said, Tim. I think we can all agree that my list is completely irrelevant now, because last weekend's game takes the cake as far as night games are concerned. Pretty wild event, no question. Contact me any time, by the way,


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

"He doesn't even mind wearing green and white. 'These are my high school colors," he smiled. "I like these colors, I think I look good in these colors.'" Aren't those Michigan State colors too? Like wearing "little brother's" colors too, eh?


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 5:09 a.m.

It's good to see mike hart living in arrowwood again. usually people who live in arrowwood go on to play in the NFL. Arrowwood produces many talents. go arrowwood hills co-op!


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 1 a.m.

Matt Cooper. To compare Mike Hart and Justin Boren really shows you're a UM fan. Sheesh!!

Joe Kidd

Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 11:06 p.m.

Does he want his jersey retired? While Mike was a great running back in re to churning out the yards, to ever say that Jim Harbaugh is not a Michigan man will forever leave me wondering what is wrong with his thinking. Thing is, Harbaugh was right on with the comments leading to Hart's misjudgement.


Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 11:04 p.m.

You might not cheer for Michigan any longer, but we fans who remember still cheer for you! Wishing Mike Hart a very successful and rewarding coaching career at EMU (Go Eagles and Go Blue!)


Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 11 p.m.

Mike Hart still bleeds Maize and Blue. The EMU gig is only a start in his pre planned coaching career that will lead him back to Michigan some day. This will be the only Saturday of the year that he will not cheer for the Maize and Blue. You can tell that even Ron English still supports the Wolverines, except when we have to play them. Just a thought; but maybe in five years or less Running Backs Coach Fred Jackson will retire and Mike Hart will have enough experience to step in and fill that position. I am very happy to see EMU off to a 2 and 0 start. This means our team will take Eagles more seriously. EMU will be hungry for an upset and if Michigan plays lackluster in the first half in this next game, it could be a long afternoon. We should win by a comfortable margin at any rate.

Terrin Bell

Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 10:24 p.m.

I think it easy for Mike not to cheer for Michigan. Except the running back coach, nobody is there anymore that he'd know.


Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 10:08 p.m.

I miss Mike Hart. He was such a solid back and team player.

Gabe Callender

Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

Yeah you took the words right out of my mouth, Dave. Though I am sure he will be back on the Michigan sidelines someday. It is not like Eastern Michigan is a good program or anyting either

Terrin Bell

Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 10:23 p.m.

At this point, until proven otherwise, it isn't like Michigan is a good program either. The last three years it wasn't one. Despite the score it barely edged out the win against WMU, and Notre Dame did everything it could to lose that game against Michigan. I will tell you this: Michigan has an easy schedule this year, and EMU and Michigan are similar in that both are rebuilding.

David Vande Bunte

Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

"I don't cheer for Michigan ever anymore. I watch (Michigan play) and I watch it as a coach." Gotta call BS on Mike Hart for this. I get that he wants to show support to his new team, but this statement is absurd. Nobody who has ever bled the maize and blue as much as Hart did could ever say that and actually mean it. Just a motivational tool for the EMU players, that's all. OF COURSE Mike Hart cheers for the Wolverines when they aren't playing EMU, it is simply in his DNA.

Matt Cooper

Wed, Sep 14, 2011 : 6 p.m.

Really? I got "schooled" by a guy posting quotes without a single citation? Offering quotes without some sort of citation is as useless as half the posters here on And since you're all into letting "Mike Hart say it himself", maybe you might take a little of your own medicine and re-read the article paying particular attention to the part that says: "Hart says he's thankful to be working alongside English, and happy to get a start at Eastern, the same place his college coach, Lloyd Carr, began his college coaching career. He doesn't even mind wearing green and white. "These are my high school colors," he smiled. "I like these colors, I think I look good in these colors." Oh, but I forget. You knnow Mike Hart better than he knows himself.

Blu n Tpa

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

Matt Cooper You should take notes because DVB just 'schooled' you on how you defend your side of a discussion. In honor of the US Open, "Match, Mr. Bunte" TiM Go Blue!

David Vande Bunte

Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

Matt, let's let Mike Hart say it himself: "I want to coach, and hopefully I'll be the head coach at Michigan one day. That's my goal." "That's ultimately what I want to do. I love Michigan. That's a big part of me." "Lloyd's a big role model for me. He's like another dad to me. I see what he does and the kind of guy he is, and I just want to be part of that and the Michigan tradition. And I think I can do it."


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 1:46 a.m.

"OF COURSE Mike Hart cheers for the Wolverines when they aren't playing EMU, it is simply in his DNA." Every time Michigan scores next saturday, Mike will be looking around for someone to chest bump. He's a Michigan man thru and thru. And yes Matt, we do know how he feels.


Tue, Sep 13, 2011 : 1:24 a.m.

Thank you, Matt Cooper, for the insight. We will now all 'get over ourselves.' Couldn't have done it without you...Thanks again.

Matt Cooper

Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 11:37 p.m.

Funny how you guys all think you can tell Mike Hart what he feels, what he thinks and where his loyalties are. But did you ever consider that he might just be speaking his heart? Maybe he really doesn't like Michigan any more. Hmmm. Are we really so conceited that we think that anybody that ever wore the maize and blue and the winged helmet will forever be a "Michigan man" whether they want to be or not? Really? Tell that to Justin Boren. And then get over yourselves.

Matt Cooper

Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 11:33 p.m.

Nice of you to tell Mike Hart what he thinks and how he feels. I'm sure he's truly appreciative for that.


Mon, Sep 12, 2011 : 10:03 p.m.

you hit it right on the nose. i bet he will be true blue except when emu plays them. you can not tell me others feel the same when they are in his shoes. heck even the guy on epsn says he wants michigan to win except when they play osu. go blue