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Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer 49d

Jim Harbaugh shares letter from Marine to inspire young Michigan team

College Football, Michigan Wolverines

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said he gets "lots of letters." But he doesn't get many from retired Marines or 13-year combat veterans who want to remind him that young people are capable of performing mature tasks.

At the Michigan team meeting Friday night, the eve of the No. 11 Wolverines' 33-17 rout of No. 17 Florida, Harbaugh read his team a two-page, single-spaced typewritten letter from Anthony Riddle of Jackson, Michigan, a half-hour west of the Michigan campus.

Michigan began this season with the fewest returning starters of any FBS team. The team didn't play like it Saturday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

"This is in response to all the naysayers out there that think Michigan Football is too young!" Riddle wrote. "'Michigan football is too inexperienced!' Your young men have worked their tails off this summer, they have battled each other for roster spots, battled each other for starting jobs, and they have sweat and bleed [sic] together. You tell your young men that every down they play could be their last, every down they play, they will never get that play back. If they go out and play that down as if it is their last age and experience doesn't [sic] matter....

"We were all heading into WAR and were not even old enough to have a beer; I served in three tours to Iraq before I was 22 years old. How is that for being young?... [If] my Marines and I can make it through combat inexperienced and being too young, this team can win the Big Ten Championship and even the National Championship."

Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, who overcame throwing two second-quarter pick-sixes to lead the Wolverines to the win, called the letter "really cool."

"Just to hear that letter and say, OK, there's 18- , 19-year-old guys going over there defending our freedom," Speight said. "Why can't we step out on the field in Cowboys Stadium and play a simple game of football?"

"What they did and what they sacrificed and what they were able to -- age is irrelevant," Harbaugh said. "So it's a group of guys in a unit or on a team that come together and do their job ... It was better than anything I could have told the team."

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