for 28 Years Through Their Hearts and Minds
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PREMIERES WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5 AT 9 P.M. ET/PT
The University of Michigan sports department has a secret weapon. Greg Harden has been quietly developing the hearts and minds of players at the university as a counselor for nearly three decades. By building better people, Harden made better athletes, helping to mold its Division 1 program into one of the most successful in America. Just ask three-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback Tom Brady or Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard, some of the famous alums who say Harden made a crucial difference in their careers. Correspondent James Brown profiles Harden for the next edition of 60 MINUTES SPORTS premiering Wed. March 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT only on SHOWTIME.
Brady came to Harden as a frustrated junior backup quarterback who knew he needed something extra to become the starter. Brady says Harden kicked him into a higher gear mentally. “Your whole life, people have always told you how great you are as an athlete…he’s probably the first person in your life that says, ‘Well, you don’t deserve to really be on the field.’” Brady says, in fact, he wasn’t the best athlete around, but there was something else Harden made him tap into.
“I found I could get the edge from my competitiveness and through my drive and work ethic and those were some of the things Greg really said. ‘This is what your strengths are. Let them be your strengths,’” Brady says Harden told him. “Without a doubt…I’m forever grateful to him,” the superstar says.
Says Harden, “[Brady] still can’t run…but you can’t catch him,” he says laughing. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is his heart and his mind. You can’t measure that boy’s heart…his mind.”
Howard says he owes his famous trophy to Harden. “If Greg Harden is not at the University of Michigan in the late 80s, I don’t win the Heisman,” says the former All-Pro wide receiver and Super Bowl XXXI MVP. He was thinking of leaving Michigan but Harden, he says, straightened him out.
Harden told the young player he was dreaming. “I had to get him to stop fantasizing about being a star and to turn into a student involved in athletics who would allow himself to be coachable.”
Harden could give advice not just because he had a degree in social work and had been a drug and alcohol counselor, but because he had been in their shoes. He was recruited out of high school to Michigan as a track star with a chip on his shoulder. “The coaches weren’t too happy with me,” he tells Brown. “I was that guy who didn’t have a clue who thought he knew everything.” He dropped out to support his pregnant girlfriend and drifted for a few years before turning his life around by returning to Michigan to get his degree. He lived and learned the lessons he has been imparting to athletes all these years. “I’ll tell them that if you want to be the best, you’ve got to decide with or without [sports] …your life is going to be amazing. Then, all of a sudden, your sport falls into a context.”
FALLING 800 FEET DOWN A HIMALAYAN PEAK IS JUST PART OF THE “JOB” FOR JEREMY JONES, THE BIG MOUNTAIN FREE RIDER – ON THE NEXT EDITION OF “60 MINUTES SPORTS” ON SHOWTIME®
The Extreme Sport Jones Calls His Art, Most Would Say is a Near Death Experience
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An 800-ft. fall down a Himalayan Peak was all in a day’s work for legendary snowboarder Jeremy Jones. Called big mountain free riding, it’s a job he loves, and it’s brought him to five continents where he’s hiked through chest high snow and hurricane force winds, for days or weeks, to get to peaks where even helicopters can’t go. All to make his “art” or his “line” on an untouched slope with a vertical drop so steep it practically looks like a wall of snow. Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi profiles this snowboarding pioneer and goes on a few adventures with him on the next edition of 60 MINTUES SPORTS premiering Wed., March 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT only on SHOWTIME.
The fall in the Himalayas was part of the final film in a trilogy about Jones’s snowboarding feats. Called “Higher,” it will be released in September, but 60 MINUTES SPORTS got a sneak peak. The trek to Nepal meant training for weeks to make the arduous expedition in the high altitude, in this case over 21,000 feet up.
Jones watched the long fall for the first time with Alfonsi. “I knew there were no rocks to worry about below me. I just kept my board in front of me and it’s kind of like going down white water rapids at this point,” he nonchalantly tells Alfonsi. A few days later he would climb back up the mountain, even further, to the summit of the peak that has no name on a map but that Jones calls Shangri-la. This time he would ride it down. “This is probably the most serious line I’ve ever tried to snowboard,” says Jones.
As dangerous as it looks, Jones takes every precaution he can. He has turned around after reaching peaks due to factors like weather or a high chance of an avalanche. He also does his best to avoid lethal terrain. “In certain spots on certain mountains that’s what we call a ‘no fall zone’ and a no fall zone means if you fall you’ll die,” says Jones.
For almost 20 years, Jones, 39, has been on the leading edge of the sport that took off with helicopters launching skiers and boarders to remote mountains in Alaska, often to make spectacular films. Over the last five years, he began going where the helicopters couldn’t as an added challenge. “I hold the mountains that I hike compared to the mountains that I’ve taken a helicopter to very different[ly]. It’s much more personal. These mountains are deeply etched in my DNA at this point,” says Jones. The new tack can at times put Jones in dangerous situations, but he says he’s not a crazy daredevil. “When I get it figured out and the time’s right, then yes, I will take it to the edge and ride a very fine line,” he tells Alfonsi, “But…only when the stars have aligned perfectly.”
Jones’ evolution as one of the greatest snowboarders ever was directly influenced by his two older brothers, Todd and Steve, who were extreme skiers and founders of the Jackson Hole, WY based film business “Teton Gravity Research.” Jones has travelled the world to find the perfect slopes and been in 18 Teton Gravity Research films along the way, but Jackson Hole is still one of his favorite places to ride. Visiting Jones and his brothers in Jackson, Alfonsi and 60 MINUTES SPORTS cameras watched him and his brothers tackle “Corbet’s Couloir,” often called “America’s scariest ski slope.” Jones and his older brother Todd descend the shoot that looks more like a cliff than a slope. Says Jeremy Jones, “Some of the best days…moments of my life [are] with these guys right next to me…that’s the coolest part of what we do.”