Why a Michigan family named its son Harbaugh
When Gregg Fettig and his wife, Lani, were deciding what to name their fourth child, they wanted a match.
Their oldest son was named Hogan after famed wrestler Hulk Hogan. Their middle boys were named Colt and Case, after the McCoy brothers who were Texas quarterbacks. Lani wanted another H sports name to match Hogan.
“I was brainstorming and said, ‘What about Harbaugh?’ and she said, ‘I love it,’ ” Gregg Fettig said. “So we had to kind of keep it from the family. Obviously we grew up Michigan fans. That’s how the origin happened.
“I don’t know if my kids will play football but you want good, aspiring football names. So when you hear a tackle at a football game, Harbaugh Fettig sounds pretty tough.”
The family has U-M ties with Lani’s father, Mike Johnson, a former state trooper based in Ypsilanti, Mich., who worked Michigan games early in his career. Their family has athletic roots as Lani’s sisters, Randi and Mandi starred for St. Ignace (Mich.) in girls basketball and all were big Michigan fans.
“So there was always an allegiance to Michigan,” Fettig said. “When Harbaugh came back to take over the program, as Michigan fans, we were really fired up.”
Choosing the name felt right to them because, beyond Jim, the Harbaughs have a strong reputation.
“His brother and him and his dad, they’ve coached for years and in the coaching industry they have been pretty well-respected,” Fettig said. “You never hear anything negative from allegations or any of that kind of stuff. So we thought that would be a good name to represent our son.”
As they moved forward with the naming decision, the pair prepped for the reaction.
They expected it would go over well with their family, who had a long connection with the school.
But there were others who weren’t as comfortable, especially at St. Ignace La Salle High School where Fettig is the principal.
“I work with a lot of Michigan State Spartan alumni,” he said. “When I texted some friends the name, I got a lot of responses: ‘You’re not going to call him that, are you?’ Then I even have some of my friends that are Spartan alumni that will not call him Harbaugh.”
Fettig had an easy answer.
“I told them that’s alright, if you don’t want to call him Harbaugh, you can call him by his nickname.”
“Bo,” Fettig said, laughing.
Though Harbaugh Fettig was born last September, Lani had the idea to send the birth announcement to Jim Harbaugh through someone she knew at the U-M athletic department.
Somehow it got to him and when he tweeted it to his 1.6 million followers, everything exploded for the Fettigs.
“We didn’t expect any of this,” Fettig said. “He’s a busy guy. We are just an ordinary couple that lives in the U.P. and don’t expect anything, but it was pretty neat that he acknowledged it.”
The sudden attention is a bit overwhelming for the family but, as Fettig said, it’s a positive story, so they’re glad to be a part of that.
“We’re proud and happy to have our son’s name to be Harbaugh,” he said.