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John Harbaugh 'overwhelmed and stunned' by his statue at alma mater

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OXFORD, OHIO -- As Kristen Visbal scanned the Internet looking for images of John Harbaugh, she kept encountering the Ravens' head coach in the same pose.

Picture-after-picture, there was Harbaugh, wide-eyed and steel-jawed, standing on the sideline with his arm outstretched in the air.

"Every person has a pose that they assume on a regular basis," Visbal said. "One of those for John was putting his fist in the air. It's a nice, strong position."

For Visbal, it's only fitting for Harbaugh to be immortalized in that way. The Delaware-based sculptor's bronze statue of the Super Bowl-winning head coach will be erected Saturday in the famed Cradle of Coaches at Miami University of Ohio, Harbaugh's alma mater.

Harbaugh's statue will go up on the south end of Yager Stadium's Cradle of Coaches Plaza, joining life-sized depictions of Paul Brown, Earl Blaik, Carm Cozza, Paul Dietzel, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, John Pont and Bo Schembechler. All of those men were Miami graduates who have been named college or professional coaches of the year, been inducted in either the college or Pro Football Hall or Fame or have won a national collegiate or professional championship.

Harbaugh, who graduated from the southwest Ohio school in 1984 after an undistinguished playing career as a defensive back, earned his statue by leading the Ravens to a 34-31 victory over his brother's San Francisco 49ers team in Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013.

"I don't think there's a bigger honor in coaching. A lot of people don't understand that, but once you take a look at it, you understand it and it means a lot," Harbaugh said on Friday following the induction dinner on campus. "I just feel overwhelmed and stunned a little bit that people would take the time and come [out] and it's something that they want to be a part of. It means more to me than you could ever express."

Miami athletic director David Sayler said Harbaugh's induction drew more people than when Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was inducted last year into the school's Hall of Fame, a comment that drew a fist pump from the Ravens' head coach, who had a number of his former teammates and coaches in the crowd.

Also among the attendees were Ravens team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne and assistant coaches Jerry Rosburg, Dean Pees and Juan Castillo. Harbaugh's parents also spoke at the induction, as did his brother, Jim, who surprised John by flying in from San Francisco to be part of the ceremony.

"It's always been a pattern of success for my brother," Jim Harbaugh said. "There have been a lot of proud moments but I've never been more proud of him than I am today."

Visbal, who has sculpted all the statues in Cradle of Coaches Plaza, was first contacted by the university and asked to do the project in mid-February 2013. She started the enlarged statue this January and finished it on March 5. Visbal, who grew up in Potomac but now lives in Rehoboth Beach, Del., estimated she spent an excess of 500 hours during the process, which accelerated after she met with Harbaugh at the Ravens' training facility last June.

She took Harbaugh's measurements, photographed him from every angle and then put him in the pose that she used for the statue. Harbaugh even sent her home with an old pair of pants, a Ravens' jacket and an NFL headset to help her make the statue even more authentic.

"I'm not sure I understand yet how it feels either," Harbaugh said. "It's hard to connect with something like that. It's hard to say, 'that's for you.' When I look at it, I just think of all the people that helped along the way."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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