It’s safe to say that Spartan fans have a love-hate relationship with former University of Michigan running back Mike Hart. Despite his distinguished career, the Wolverine great is perhaps most remembered, at least by MSU faithful, for his infamous “little brother” comments following U of M’s dramatic come from behind victory in East Lansing in 2007.
“I thought it was funny,” Hart said to reporters following the game “sometimes you get your little brother excited when you’re playing basketball, let them get the lead, then you just come back and take it back.”
Hart’s comments about MSU did not sit well with anyone associated with the MSU football program, especially its first year Head Coach Mark Dantonio.
Clearly unamused by what Hart had to said, Coach Dantonio delivered a fiery response that still reverberates around the Spartan Football building today. “Let’s just remember,” he said “pride comes before the fall.”
Using the motivation provided by Hart’s apparent insult, the Spartans went on to beat the Wolverines four straight times since 2007 and have won five out of the last six meetings against U of M overall under Dantonio.
Currently the running backs coach at Western Michigan, Hart recently sat down with Spartan Nation Founder and Editor Hondo Carpenter Sr. for an interview on Spartan Nation Radio at the Broncos’ football facilities in Kalamazoo.
When asked about the comments and the uproar they created, Hart offered a simple, yet humble response that showed true character and integrity. Instead of crediting or blaming him, he said fans of both schools need need to recognize and respect Coach Dantonio for his role in changing the culture at MSU.
Hart said “For anyone to say that it’s my fault, I think that’s taking away from what Coach Dantonio has done because he’s built a tremendous program up there.”
Rather than trying to be a abrasive, Hart’s comments were a reflection of his passion, not a desire to disrespect anyone. “I did what I did, I was young and I was passionate,” he said. In his interview, Hart said he understands why MSU fans perceived his remarks as arrogant or insulting. “I think they (the fans) had a right think that by the way I acted, by the way I did things. So I don’t hold that against anybody.” At the end of the day, however, Hart said he was just being himself during that infamous press conference. “What I did, what I said, was just who I was.”
Now a coach himself, Hart said that he tries to instill that same passion and desire to be great into his players as WMU. “When you care about something,” he said “then you are going to perform and you are going to help your players perform.” The passion Hart brought to the field is the same passion he says he brings to coaching. Hart’s message to his players is simple. “Whatever you do, you have to do it with passion, you have to do it to be the best.”
At WMU under Head Coach P.J. Fleck, Hart said he can sense a collective will to be great among the players, coaches, and fans. “You get here, you see the campus, it’s beautiful. You see people walking around with Broncos shirts. There’s a passion here and there’s a want. There’s a want to be great.” Hart, never one to shy away from expressing his expectations, told Hondo that he’s expecting big things from the Bronco program in the years to come.
“It’s going to be special when we win this first championship,” he said. “We want to have success every year and that’s what Coach Fleck is instilling.”
That championship culture, according to Hart, starts with first recruiting players with a love for the game of football. “If you don’t love football, if I don’t see it in your eyes, then you’re not going to fire me up” he said. “I’m passionate, I want that same thing that same thing in a kid that was in me and that will like the way I coach.”
In addition, Hart said he wants players who understand that there is more to life than just being a football player. “When you’re in this building, its football, 100 percent” he said. But Hart tells his players that there are more important things in life than what happens in the weight room or on the field “That’s not all I want you to be. I expect a lot more of you than just being football player. You have to be a great human being.”
Sadly, many people seem to forget that the student athletes we place so much pressure on are only 18-22 year olds. Like any kids, they are going to make mistakes.
After a big win in a fierce rivalry, Mike Hart made comments that some people did not like, but that does not mean he’s a bad person. Hart dominated the Spartans during his time at U of M and he simply stated that. Rather than resent him, Spartan fans should respect his passion, admire his work ethic, and acknowledge his character as both a player and a person.
A few seconds of comments after a rivalry win, should not negate the man that Hart is.We here at Spartan Nation and wish him the best of luck at WMU.