In 2007, Mike Hart played his final game at Michigan recording 32 carries for 129 yards and two scores in a Capital One Bowl win over the Florida Gators. He was not the only Wolverine to have his final performance wearing the maize and blue that day. Head coach Lloyd Carr retired that season as the team carried him off of the field on their shoulders celebrating the win over a team led by Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer.
Since then, Michigan has had three different head coaches with Jim Harbaugh, the latest, signing a five-year extension in November. With the deal signed, changes to the coaching staff have begun including bringing another Michigan man back to the program as Hart makes his return to Ann Arbor.
After that memorable bowl win, and a forgettable 9-4 season for Michigan, Hart was selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. However, he found himself as a third-string back and had only two carries before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in 2008.
The injury bug continued to strike throughout Hart’s professional career and in 2009 he bounced back and forth off of the Colts’ practice squad. The career rushing leader at Michigan was released from Indianapolis in the NFL offseason after the 2010 season and never returned to pro football.
He did come back to the state he made his name in collegiately, joining the Eastern Michigan coaching staff in 2011 as an offensive quality control coach and earned a promotion in 2012 to the running backs coach. In 2012, the Eagles were just 2-10, but their rushing attack averaged 218 yards per game, which was good for the 14th-most in the country. A year later, Hart coached his first 1,000-yard rusher as junior Bronson Hill had 1,101 yards on the season along with 5 touchdowns.
Hart got the call from P.J. Fleck, then at Western Michigan, to join his coaching staff for the 2014 season. Talented freshman Jarvion Franklin took the call as the starting back and was one of the most prolific runners in the country that year. He scored 24 rushing touchdowns, the 4th-most in the NCAA behind Melvin Gordon, Jay Ajayi, and James Connor. Franklin also had the 16th most rushing yards in the country that season with over 1,500 yards. The Broncos’ freshman won the MAC Offensive Player of the Year following his fantastic season.
In 2016, Hart joined the Power Five as he took the same job with Syracuse in the ACC. Not only was this a major jump in his career, but the Onondaga High School alum returned to his home state of New York and his hometown of Syracuse.
A year later, Hart took an “enormous” raise to join Tom Allen’s staff with the Indiana Hoosiers thanks to his former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who now held the same position in Bloomington. With the Hoosiers, Hart played an instrumental role in the recruitment and development of Stevie Scott who rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown against Michigan in 2018 as a freshman. Through his first three seasons as a starter, Scott has 2,543 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Before the 2020 season, Hart was named the Associate Head Coach of the Indiana program under Tom Allen. After years of giving the Wolverines a run for their money on an annual basis, the Hoosiers finally conquered Michigan in a 38-21 win, snapping a streak of 24-straight victories for the maize and blue. The Hoosiers finished the season with a 6-2 record and were the No. 7 team in the country. It was the first time Indiana cracked the top-1o since 1969.
On Wednesday, the Michigan football program announced they would be bringing Hart home. In a press release, Harbaugh said, “Mike is a great coach and Michigan Man who has shown the ability to develop and elevate the performance of the running backs that he has mentored. We look forward to welcoming Mike, Monique, and their children to the Michigan Football family.”
Hart had his own comments and expressed his joy returning to his alma mater: “Michigan has always held a special place in my heart,” said Hart. “It is a place that always believed in me and a place that I have always have believed in. I am excited to join Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan staff, and can’t wait to get to work with a talented running back group.”
Hart will get to work with a talented running back room at Michigan. Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins will both be juniors and are the veteran leaders of the group, behind them is the electrifying Blake Corum who showed bursts of impressive speed and athleticism in 2020, then 247 sports Top-50 true freshman Donovan Edwards will look to crack the rotation as one of the more highly anticipated recruits at the position in recent memory. He’ll have his hands full, but there is a lot to work with as he starts his tenure in Ann Arbor.