While last year’s inaugural “Signing of the Stars” was a celebrity-laden showcase, the 2017 edition of the event simply featured Michigan coaches, players and alumni.

That may seem underwhelming. Yet, when softball coach Carol Hutchins took the stage, the entire crowd rose to applaud her. And when former wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Devin Funchess appeared on stage with former quarterback Jake Rudock, the crowd stood again to cheer.

It was a ceremony that showcased the Wolverines fan base’s support, no matter the sport.

“It was just a thought that I had — we had — to make it more about Michigan,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “From the band, the cheerleaders, the drumline, coaches, players, parents — make it about the family. Make it about the family that we are at the University of Michigan.”

The choice may have also been a reflection of the recruiting pitch Michigan gave this year’s recruits. The Wolverines secured their best recruiting class of all time, and for some of the commits, the family-feel of the event was exactly the reason they came to Ann Arbor.

“That feeling of home, that feeling of family at Michigan, that’s the reason why I’m here right now,” said incoming freshman defensive back Benjamin St-Juste. “A lot of schools were offering me a bunch of stuff like Michigan — playing time, all that stuff. But like, you want to wake up in the morning and feel comfortable with where you’re at. And Michigan offered that. You feel like home, you feel like family. That’s what’s great about Michigan.”

The feeling of family was most evident when Michigan invited Larry Prout Jr. to the stage at Crisler Center. Prout — who was born with spina bifida, cloacal exstrophy and massive omphalocele among a multitude of other illnesses that have required more than 90 surgeries in his 15 years — has been championed by the Michigan football program. He was made an honorary member of the team in October and received a trip to watch the team play in the Orange Bowl.

On Wednesday, Prout took the stage with his family, danced a little bit, held up the block ‘M’ gloves he was wearing and used the moment to promote C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

The crowd rose for Prout, and once again, a family-like atmosphere engulfed Crisler Center.

“It means so much to me,” Harbaugh said. “Never has that resonated more. We brought home our seventh child a day ago. … There’s no better word in the English language to me than family, and this is this family of ours: the University of Michigan.”

Of course, the event still retained much of its pomp from last year. Between the marching band, a University group of drummers and the comedy of the emcees — Jason and Randy Sklar — there was a somewhat raucous atmosphere throughout.

At the end of the event, Harbaugh took the microphone. After all the incoming freshmen had been announced and discussed, after all the past Michigan players had been given their proper recognition and after the countless standing ovations had been given, he put an exclamation point on the event with his now-famous catchphrase.

“Who’s got it better than us?” Harbaugh asked.

The crowd responded in unison: “Nobody!”

Based on the on-field product in past years, it’s a sentiment that could be argued. But to the players and coaches within the Michigan football program, after today’s celebration, it’s obvious they believe it’s true.

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