Mr. Harbaugh Comes to Town

A day inside the world of college football recruiting and the new phenomenon of satellite camps.


atellite camps have put college football in the summer headlines. Coaches have literally traveled the world holding football camps to coach, evaluate and recruit players. Leading the cavalcade is Michigan's Jim Harbaugh. His camps have been controversial to some, innovative to others and, above all, entertaining to seemingly all of the above.

Harbaugh's world tour began June 1 in Indianapolis. His staff has been to Australia, American Samoa and will visit 22 states this month. On June 8, the camps took on an even more bizarre twist. With Michigan in New Jersey, conference mate Rutgers planned its own camp -- and invited Ohio State, the Wolverines' hated rival.

The two camps would see some 1,400 players come through both events. Harbaugh would coach at two events that day -- first with Ole Miss and Mississippi State in Pearl, Mississippi, before hopping on a private plane to New Jersey.

Taking the rivalry and the weary travel in stride, and with Harbaugh's "nobody has it better than us" mantra, Michigan's camp was the star-studded, football-loving, buzzworthy affair it promised to be.

Paramus Catholic president Jim Vail takes a break from supervising the camp preparation to talk with ESPN 300 linebacker Drew Singleton in Vail's office. Players and staff members walk in and out throughout the day at Vail's request.

A group of high school football players joke around during camp registration at Paramus Catholic. The camp is still a few hours away and the prospects are starting to flow in.

As campers go through registration, photographs are taken with the option to purchase later. The registration process starts before 3 p.m. and ends before 5.

Volunteers and the mothers of football players help the registration process run smoothly and efficiently. Instructing players where they need to be, ensuring the right forms have been submitted and checking players in keeps things moving.

Once they are registered, the campers are relegated to the gymnasium due to the weather. The prospects pass the time before the college coaches are introduced by playing on their cellphones.

Dan DeCongelio, the owner of local sporting goods store Stan's Sport Center and sponsor of the camp, grabs hold of Jim Harbaugh's chin to say hello before the event begins. Decongelio hugs or grabs everybody he knows or is familiar with in the room.

2019 Paramus Catholic wide receiver Jaedyn George listens to music and tosses a football in the hallway prior to the start of the camp.

Prior to the camp, the college coaches are separated in the cafeteria by position group to go over the logistics of the camp and where they need to be at what time. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown emphatically instructs his group on how each drill will be run.

Jim Harbaugh's No. 1 rule for his satellite camps is that no one gets hurt. As he speaks to the campers and their families in the gym before the camp, he asks everyone to raise their hand and promise they won't get hurt while participating in the event.

High school football players look on as Harbaugh gives an energetic speech about his excitement level. He compares his heart rate to that of a thoroughbred horse before a race as his voice echoes through the gym.

The weather breaks for the first time and the campers prepare for their first round of work on the field. Prospects have come from all over the state of New Jersey and the East Coast to perform at this camp.

As the day winds down, the prospects are still motivated to flash enough promise in hopes of landing a scholarship offer. They receive the full attention of Harbaugh as he kneels in front of a line to watch the receivers running routes.

Wagner coach Tony Brinson is one of many college coaches instructing the campers throughout the day. The drills are performed over three football fields, each divided in half, and are timed to follow a specific schedule.

Quarterback Calebe Silva is one of 79 quarterbacks who showed up to work with Harbaugh. The signal-callers are watched closely by Harbaugh as they throw to receivers, hoping to catch his eye and attention.

Harbaugh works personally with the quarterbacks and receivers throughout the camp. Donned in his Derek Jeter Yankees jersey, he gives the campers some words of advice before a drill.

The opportunity to go one-on-one with other prospects in front of over 100 coaches is invaluable to the prospects on hand. The defensive backs and receivers battle to make an impression in each matchup.

The camp comes to a close, but the prospects are asked to circle up at midfield to listen to a few guest speakers, including Harbaugh's brother, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh -- who speaks to the campers about chasing their dreams.

As the prospects and coaches make their way off the field, a few former players come to say goodbye to their former head coach at Paramus Catholic, Chris Partridge. Now the Michigan linebackers and special-teams coach, Partridge holds a special place in his heart for New Jersey and Paramus Catholic, and he makes that apparent throughout the day.

More Stories