Who knows how many people saw it? Those with an HBO subscription, at least.
In a 2015 episode of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” then-newly hired Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh hollered at a quarterback, whose number was blurred out, “I’m just telling you the right way to do it. If you wanna look at me, like, with that look, go f—ing somewhere else.”
The quarterback towered over Harbaugh, making it logical to conclude it was 6-foot-6 Wilton Speight. Monday, Speight confirmed he was the blurred quarterback in the video, and assured reporters he and his coach are on much firmer ground now.
“Obviously it’s come a long way since that HBO special, telling me to, I think it was transfer somewhere else or go somewhere else,” Speight said. “All my buddies joked, they said, ‘Yeah, they blurred out the number, but you’re the only 8-foot quarterback in the country.’ So it was easily identifiable as me.”
And according to Speight, he wasn’t the only one getting that treatment.
“He was kind of taking shots at everybody, just trying to get all the softer guys out, because he was new and he needed to come in and make a statement,” Speight said.
“Obviously I didn’t like hearing it or having it on HBO for the whole country to see.”
Now, of course, Speight hasn’t given Harbaugh much reason to curse. After starting the 2016 season with an interception against Hawaii, the redshirt sophomore has completed 35 of his last 49 passes, throwing seven touchdowns with no more interceptions.
He was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, after a 312-yard, four-touchdown showing against Central Florida, and he hasn’t showed signs of slowing down.
It’s a far cry from where he was at the time of the HBO special.
“That whole spring was rough,” Speight said. “I had torn my groin. Wasn’t really able to perform like I wanted to. But still practiced every practice, and came out really low on the depth chart. There was some hard self-evaluation after that spring with talking to Coach Fisch as well, and Coach Harbaugh, and they just said, ‘Hey, if you want this, you’ve just gotta work a little bit harder.’ And that’s what I did."
At the time, Speight said he probably needed to be coached hard like that. Coming off a redshirt season in which he didn’t need to know the game plan, Speight admits his maturity and preparation weren’t where they needed to be.
To some degree, he acknowledged, he was checked out.
“(Harbaugh’s) just trying to wake you up and get your attention, and sometimes the best way to do that is verbally and very loud,” Speight said. “It worked for me. Obviously it’s worked for a lot of players on the team.”
That version of Harbaugh is in stark contrast with the one who Speight said laughed and told him to brush off that early-season interception. By now, it seems, Harbaugh has cooled from the hard coaching.
Speight said Monday that Harbaugh knows better than to chew out his quarterback mid-game. And the redshirt sophomore shares that approach in the huddle.
“I kind of like to read each situation separately,” Speight said. “If I need to be vocal, I will, but I truthfully like to just be kind of calm. I think there was a couple times where I would be laughing during a play call or something this past Saturday, and that’s just kind of how I like to live every day. Not lackadaisical, but just chill, and go with the flow.
“There was one UCF player who was trying to talk smack at me, and I just started dying laughing, because we heard him from the huddle. And there were other times that we’d be up on the line of scrimmage and I’d think something was funny.”
If it seems strange Speight laughs off trash talk, remember that all of HBO has seen him chewed out by his own coach on national TV. Clearly, he came out of that just fine.