Just like he's preached to his players for nearly a decade, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh told the graduates of Stevenson University on Thursday that there is a secret to success: hard work.
Harbaugh took the students from the Owings Mills, Maryland, college campus to inside the Ravens' locker room during points of his 19-minute commencement speech, which focused on the pursuit of the first job and how to excel at any field. He drew laughter when he recounted some football stories and his days in college, but the emphasis of his talk was the importance of outworking everyone.
One of the key moments of Harbaugh's first-ever commencement speech was when he relayed the Ravens' 1 percent rule.
"We say: Get 1 percent better every single day," Harbaugh said. "Get 1 percent better today and then stack it with another percent tomorrow and then a percent the day after that. The problem is, you don't want to give up a day then. What if I don't get a percent better? Now, I'm not just losing that percent but the guy I'm competing against, he's getting 1 percent better. So, I'm 2 percent behind. That's being motivated."
Work ethic is a source of pride for Harbaugh, who has turned the Ravens into a perennial playoff team and guided them to a Super Bowl title in 2012. He added to his list of accolades Thursday, when Stevenson gave him an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, the university’s highest academic honor.
In relating to the graduates, Harbaugh told a story about his first job, which was a graduate assistant at Western Michigan under his father. After two holding calls negated long passes on back to back plays, Harbaugh angrily threw his headset so far that it landed in front of the other team's band. He was then confronted by his father, who told him to pick up the tossed equipment.
"Can you imagine the humiliation ... I think [the band] struck up some kind of a tune to celebrate," Harbaugh said. "I have not thrown headphones since. Have you noticed that?"
Harbaugh spoke about how the path ahead will present tests, challenges and disappointment. He emphasized respect, obedience and passion for your profession.
Among Harbaugh's final points was the importance of playing by the rules, which has been a hot topic in the NFL these days.
"[There are] situations where a dishonest edge can be easily gained," Harbaugh said. "Our dad told us flat out, never lie, never cheat, never steal. It won't be worth it. Whatever success that stuff brings will be undermined sometime down the road. The value of becoming known as a person and integrity is priceless."
Harbaugh added, "There's no grading scale for integrity. You either score 100 percent or zero."