Before former Alabama co-offensive coordinator Josh Gattis left Tuscaloosa, he had to make a stop in Nick Saban’s office.
The Crimson Tide head coach had just lost Mike Locksley — his other coordinator — to Maryland. He was peeved when Gattis told him he was following Locksley to College Park.
“I had just left a meeting with Nick Saban,” Gattis said on Jim Harbaugh’s Attack Each Day podcast, “getting my butt chewed out for about 20 minutes telling him I was leaving...It didn’t go over well.”
Former Alabama assistant Coach Josh Gattis describes his last moments with Saban and getting the call from Harbaugh... pic.twitter.com/CkKhk52ToR— Pat Smith (@patsmithradio) January 15, 2019
Soon after, Harbaugh called with the intent to woo Gattis to coordinate the Michigan offense. It was good timing.
“When coach (Jim) Harbaugh called, it kind of caught me off guard,” Gattis said. “So if there was any Band-Aid to the bruise it was that (Harbaugh) phone call. It was exciting to hear his voice and get a chance to talk to him personally.”
When Harbaugh heard Gattis was available, he worked fast to secure the 34-year old. Despite the allure of working with a slew of elite Wolverine receivers, Gattis still dreaded rejecting Locksley’s offer at Maryland.
“When you know it’s right and it hits your gut, it doesn’t take long,” Gattis added. “I was convicted on this. I had to tell some people ‘no’ and I had to tell some people I wasn’t coming. It was a hard day telling those people I wasn’t going to be part of their program because of the previous relationships.
”But when you feel convicted inside that this is the right place you should be, the right staff, the right head coach you want to be around. It helps ease away those concerns. I’m so proud to be here. So proud to have this opportunity. Looking forward to it.”
Michigan offered Gattis a three-year deal worth at least $2.9 million, with opportunities to make up to $4 million. This essentially doubled his Alabama salary.
Harbaugh hinted that his new hire will take full reign over the offense.
“I like the idea of him running it,” Harbaugh said. “We have some very fine offensive coaches here, no question about that. They feel like, ‘Yeah, let’s go! This is the direction that we’re going, so let’s go and make it great. Let’s make it work.’ Everybody has the attitude that Josh has. When I talked to him he said, ‘You’re going to get my best.’ When he said that, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Harbaugh has yet to address the status of Pep Hamilton. He would be owed $1.25 million if he stayed through 2019. Gattis will look to mesh with run-game coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warriner.
He and his family have felt welcomed to the Ann Arbor community.
“Coming up here with my wife and kids for the first time, that was something I was a little bit hesitant on,” Gattis said. “Coach called and said ‘Hey, look, I want to make sure your family comes up here.’
“That doesn’t happen quite often in college football. Usually, with new hires, you dive all in. You put yourself in a room and don’t see your family for two months. ... I want my kids to be in this environment because it’s been so welcoming.”
Gattis plans to hit the ground running on the recruiting trail, utilizing connections he’s made in Pennsylvania and the south.