FORT BEND, Texas — Ann Arbor, Mich., is a long way from the southwest suburbs of Houston, but it feels just like home for Mustapha Muhammad.
That feeling doesn’t come from any building. It starts with his relationship with football coach Jim Harbaugh, who helped convince Muhammad that he and the University of Michigan would be a perfect match. The tight end, a 4-star prospect according to the 247Sports composite, had offers from throughout the Power 5 conferences and plenty of pressure to stay in state. However, he went with his feelings of home when choosing the Wolverines last Oct. 20. He made it official two months later when he signed a National Letter of Intent during the early period.
“I’ll be on campus starting June 3, and I can’t wait,” Muhammad said. “I’m excited. That’s pretty much where my mind has been the past couple of months.”
Muhammad sat down with Land of 10 recently to discuss his recruitment process.
Q: Why is Michigan the right fit for you?
Mustapha Muhammad: “Everything about Michigan really caught my eye. My first visit was when I got a better understanding about the campus, the people, the coaches and the community as a whole. I feel like I’m going to thrive there. I really like the offense, I like Coach Harbaugh and the kind of person that he is. He’s a really good motivator, and he’ll get his team ready to play each and every day.”
Q: When was that first visit?
MM: “The summer before my junior year. It was at a camp.”
Q: You told me you watched a lot of film of different schools during the recruiting process. Why?
MM: “I was looking for if what the coaches were telling me how they were going to use the tight end was true. I researched and looked at film to see how many tight ends they put on the field at a time, what type of offense they run. I feel like Michigan had the best tight end usage out of the schools that offered me.”
Q: There have been three tight ends coaches in the last three years. What has been the message from them to you during this process?
MM: “There was a consistent message. They all think I’m going to do really well there. They’ve been great recruiters for me, stayed in touch with me, and now that I’m going to be working with Coach [Sherrone] Moore, I’m real excited to work with him. He’s real young and a hands-on coach. Coach Harbaugh said he hired him because he’s a younger guy and he can work the drills and do some of the things that the other coaches can’t.”
Q: This tight end room is talented and crowded, but you see yourself fitting in well?
MM: “I do, and I really like competition because competition makes you better. Looking up to the seniors like Zach Gentry and Tyrone Wheatley will make me better.”
Q: That kind of depth can lead to players transferring, but it’s also something Harbaugh wants for competition. Is that something he talked to you about in recruiting?
MM: Absolutely. I went up to the practice a month ago when it was supposed to have the spring [game] but ended up as a practice. Guys were competing and going at it, from the starters to the second group, third group, everybody was working hard.
Q: What led to your decision to announce your commitment last October?
MM: “There was a lot going on at the time, and I didn’t know if it was the perfect time to do it, but I had the gut instinct to commit and get that off my chest. I wanted to let the world know where I was going. But I did feel like Michigan solidified itself as the leader in my process during the spring game last year.”
Q: A lot going on, what in particular?
MM: “The season was going on, it was the middle of the season and it was Homecoming week. There were things off the field. I had a turf toe injury I was worried about, and my grandma had passed recently, so there was a lot going on. But after I committed, I felt better. I could just focus on the season and focus on myself, just live my life.”
Q: Was there pressure in choosing a school?
MM: “There was a lot of pressure to stay down south, even in Texas. I could’ve gone to UT, I could’ve gone to A&M and done something like that, but I wanted to do something different, get away from home and experience another way of life.”
Q: What changed your mind on signing in December instead of waiting until February?
MM: “I really wanted to wait until February to make it official with my teammates here at Ridge Point (High School), but some of the guys [other recruits] thought it was better for me to sign early. Coach Harbaugh suggested to me to sign early, and I respected that so I decided to sign in December.
“That would’ve been one more thing for him to worry about. I didn’t want him to have that, and I just respected his opinion.”