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'Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind' shows Harbaugh, Michigan in different light

David Turnley

No one outside of Jim Harbaugh's family and coaching staff had more face time with the Michigan head coach during his first year on the job than Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Turnley.

Turnley's nearly four decades as a professional photographer have sent him all over the world. He has heard bullets zip by his head in war zones on three different continents. He visited Cuba with Muhammad Ali. He lived briefly with the Dalai Lama. He sat at Nelson Mandela's dinner table the night after the South African leader was released from prison. And now, he's firmly entrenched with the Wolverine football team and America's most interesting college coach.

Harbaugh granted Turnley, who spent two weeks as a walk-on football player at Michigan in the 1970s, unfettered access to himself and his program. He was intrigued after learning about Turnley's bona fides and the competitive relationship he has with his twin brother, Peter. The Turnleys finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the 1988 World Press Picture of the Year contest -- the photographing world's version of winning the Super Bowl. David won.

Turnley and Harbaugh co-authored a 300-page book titled "Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind", released by Foster Park Publishing in August, filled with a "treatise" from the coach and more than 300 photos from Harbaugh's first year at Michigan. Turnley made more than 70,000 pictures during his first year with the team. He and Harbaugh recently took the time to talk to us about some of their favorites.


Turnley: "He has what I call the stars in the eyes. This is a man whose energy is unbelievably contagious.

"It's not easy to describe. I've seen it with Ali. I've seen it with Mandela, and certainly with Coach Harbaugh. They always look you in the eye, very direct. Everything about Jim Harbaugh's presence is compelling. When he walks into the room he inspires with his presence. People talk about that with generals, I think he more than anyone I've ever met has that quality. When he walks in a room he assumes the position of leadership. You can literally see the highlight in the eye. It's twinkling out of the eyeballs, there's so much energy."


Harbaugh: "This was early in training camp, and we had one of those kind of practices. I remember that distinctly like it was yesterday. And it's just one of these: 'We're not going to win a game. We'll be lucky if we win one game.'

"(Offensive coordinator Tim Drevno) was saying the same thing. We couldn't get stuff picked up, protected. Feeling like I could go up to the top of the bell tower right now. That was that moment. Don't let me climb the stairs of the bell tower. I just might jump off."


Turnley traveled with Harbaugh to several satellite camps in June. He said the coach always had his cleats on for their flights. He compared the brief 10-minute naps Harbaugh took in the air to the type of rest that soldiers would get during the lull of a battle.


Turnley: "There's a lot of spirituality on a football field. ... Jake Butt is special. He's a tremendous athlete, tremendous leader. He's an inspiring guy. He's reading the Bible in the locker room before getting ready to take the field."


Turnley: "It's a real privilege to witness the coaches come together at halftime to confer and figured out what they're trying to tweak. It's a really intense, clear and impressive thing. You feel like you're amidst army generals in a war zone, to be honest."


Turnley: "This is Dan Dierdorf, one of the all-time great Michigan linemen, talking early in Coach Harbaugh's first training camp. They were talking about the direction he was trying to take the team and it was a really thoughtful conversation."


Turnley: "One of the things that happens being at Michigan is Michigan falls get so beautiful. The skies get big and there are these incredible cumulus clouds, and the light in the afternoon when we go to practice around 3 or 4 is just majestic. I love that."


Harbaugh visited France with his wife, Sarah, in the summer of 2015. Turnley, who was in Paris to teach a course, went with the couple to visit the beaches of Normandy, home of the D-Day invasion. Turnley said he saw Sarah jump on Jim's back, and it reminded him of images he has seen of men carrying injured soldiers over the same hills in 1944.