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Published: Saturday, 9/8/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Ex-Rocket happy at Wyoming

Harding ready to coach against UT

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Maumee native Jim Harding Maumee native Jim Harding
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LARAMIE, Wyo. -- Maumee native Jim Harding eventually might move closer to the place he once called home.

If he remains out west, coaching football at Wyoming, that would be fine as well.

Harding, a former standout offensive lineman for the University of Toledo, has cringed hearing nightmare stories of coaches logging 18-hour days and sleeping overnight in their offices. Working in conditions he calls "extremely family friendly" at Wyoming, Harding is home each night to tuck in his 2-year-old son. When Colton starts school in a few years, his father will be able to drop him off before heading into the office.

"The long and short of it, I'm going to go where I feel is best for my family," Harding said this week. "Obviously, professionally plays a role in it, but we have a great situation here."

Harding, a senior on the 2000 Toledo team that went 10-1, has this season added running-game coordinator responsibilities to his role as offensive line coach. The Cowboys will host Toledo today in a match-up of bowl teams from last year. It will be the second time Harding takes on his alma mater after the Cowboys prevailed in the Glass Bowl in 2010, an experience Harding describes as "very unique."

"I try to keep it as normal as possible, if that's possible," he said.

Harding, who is in his fourth season on the staff of former Toledo offensive coordinator Dave Christensen, is married with a second child on the way. He speaks with his parents by phone every day, and his father often suggests Harding seek a job in the Midwest.

"I think he'd like to be closer to home, but he likes what he's doing," said Jim Harding, Sr., who still attends Toledo games. "He's not looking to get out of there. I'm sure if the right opportunity came up, he'd consider it."

It does not appear Harding was a candidate at Toledo last offseason during the shuffling of the coaching staff. Within days of being named head coach, Matt Campbell hired Tom Manning as offensive line coach, eliminating any chance Harding would return to the program where he was a captain, started 46-consecutive games, and was named All-Mid-American Conference.

"One of the smartest football players I ever coached," Christensen said, adding Harding did a "phenomenal job" as a graduate assistant when the two were reunited at Missouri.

Harding returned to the area in 2006, coaching at Troy High School in Michigan for three seasons, and as head coach the final season. Christensen lured him to Laramie the following year, where Harding nearly teamed with Campbell as co-offensive line coaches. A day or two after accepting the job, Campbell reconsidered and became offensive coordinator at Toledo.

Harding, who has crossed paths with Campbell in recruiting, called Toledo's decision to promote Campbell to head coach "a great hire."

"Any person you come across has nothing but good things to say about coach Campbell," Harding said.

Harding has fielded several text messages and emails this week from former teammates wishing to discuss today's game. Wyoming, like Toledo, lost its season opener, falling at Texas 37-17. Traveling to the game, said Harding, are his former teammates Michael Schaefer, Jovan Ilich, and Steve Barnes. On any other Saturday, Harding would join them in cheering on the Rockets.

"There's definitely a rooting interest," he said. "You've spent five years there that made you part of the person you are today."

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.



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