Football grad assistant continues to break barriers

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Mimi Bolden-Morris is a trailblazer. A confident, capable, powerful trailblazer who’s going after what she wants. Just like anyone else.

Except she’s a woman on the Michigan football coaching staff. Bolden-Morris is in her first year as an offensive graduate assistant with Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, the first female graduate assistant at a Power Five school.

Bolden-Morris was raised with her brother, Mike, a senior defensive end on the 2022 Michigan football team, by two parents committed to discipline and respect. Her father, Michael, a policeman, and her mother, Melanie, a high school principal, raised their children on those values.

“Discipline is huge in my house,” Bolden-Morris said. “Work ethic, how we interact with people — respect, love and filter out the rest — that’s what I grew up on and it stuck with me.”

Mimi Bolden-Morris is an offensive graduate assistant with the Michigan football team, the first female graduate assistant at a Power Five school. (Photo by Aaron Bills, Michigan Athletics)
Mimi Bolden-Morris is an offensive graduate assistant with the Michigan football team, the first female graduate assistant at a Power Five school. (Photo by Aaron Bills, Michigan Athletics)

That, combined with a fierce faith, has navigated her through uncharted waters. In addition to being on U-M’s staff, she’s pursuing a master’s degree in public policy, adding to a master’s in sports industry management she earned while playing basketball at Georgetown University. Bolden-Morris spent her first three-and-a-half years in college playing basketball at Boston College where she earned her bachelor’s degree in communication.

She spent her final half year at Georgetown and took advantage of the extra COVID year to complete her first master’s. Now in Ann Arbor, she’s ready for more challenges.

Bolden-Morris is accustomed to competing with boys. She juggled multiple sports — on both girls and co-ed teams — throughout her childhood: baseball, softball, basketball and football.

“My dad made a rule that we had to participate in two or more sports a year so there was very little time sitting at home,” she said. “I started out playing baseball. I loved competing with the guys. I guess little me loved the idea of proving 8-year-old boys wrong. I pitched, I caught, played first and third. I was introduced to softball around 8 and played both baseball and softball until I was about 11, then committed to playing travel softball until I was about 14.

“When softball season was over, I played flag football in the fall, which was always my favorite time of year. I was only allowed to play quarterback on the deep balls because I threw too hard for the girls to catch, so I spent the majority of my flag football career at receiver.”

Growing up in a sports-minded family developed her skill and competitive spirit, but an innate athleticism and acuity were the difference in getting her to this point. She attributes the similarities across those sports to being able to pick things up more quickly.

“Exposure to so many different sports helped me, especially mentally,” she said. “The majority of sports I played, I was in a position that was pretty high IQ — quarterback, wide receiver, having to make reads on defense. I was the point guard and shooting guard in basketball.

“I always had the ball in my hands to make decisions. I was the catcher in softball and baseball, and I pitched too. I was always in a position to have to understand what my opponent might be doing so I could manipulate them in ways.”

When asked before the football season started if she was nervous about this new role and experience, Bolden-Morris said, “No.” Her journey has steadily developed her confidence and composure, but her path to Ann Arbor wasn’t always smooth.

As a freshman at Boston College, Bolden-Morris earned All-ACC Freshman honors and was runner-up for Rookie of the Year. She was a leader from the jump. But then a new coach came to town, and with her a new system and approach. In a complete 180, Bolden-Morris barely saw the floor.

“I barely played, it wasn’t until the end of the season,” she recalled. “It was the same team, I just wasn’t playing. My coach was pretty old school in her approach and wanted us all to fit this very slim, track-star build. So we had weigh-ins, all these running tests, and if you didn’t pass them you couldn’t practice until you did.

“I was overwhelmed mentally, probably at my lowest in life,” she admits. “Dealing with that, I feel a little bit invincible now that I’m out of it.”

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The ups and downs continued into her junior and senior years in Boston — she transferred to Georgetown during the 2020-21 season — but she looked for the “why” and the lessons learned from the experience.

“I had to evaluate how I was going to get through that situation I’d never been in and still maintain my character throughout,” she reflects. “Because I lost myself. I lost my character and the respect that I came into college with, and I had to find that again. I had to lean on my faith and surround myself with people who steered me in the right direction. That’s what got me here. I had to lose it in order to see how to grow from it.”

Now, in Ann Arbor, Bolden-Morris is working toward her goal of being a coach in what could easily be an extremely challenging situation.

“If I had one worry, it would be how I’m treated, but they’re absolutely amazing,” Bolden-Morris said of her Michigan family. “They treat me like a little sister. I’m super grateful to be in a position like this. I don’t know many programs that would’ve accepted me.

“If Coach Harbaugh doesn’t think I’m doing something well, he tells me and holds me accountable. I love that I’m treated just like anybody else.”

Bolden-Morris looks to her colleagues, some who’ve been in the business longer than she’s been alive, and considers them “father figures, grandpa figures, big brother figures.” She’s always looking to learn something.

“I know the least out of almost everybody, but I keep the mentality of ‘all I can do is my best.’ All I can control is the effort I put in and the attitude I bring.”

— This is an abbreviated version of a story that ran online. View the full story at mgoblue.com.

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Comments

  1. Acrisio Pires
    on September 22, 2022 at 7:13 am

    CONGRATULATIONS to Mimi Bolden-Morris, who also significantly adds to diversity in the football coaching team! Aside from this great news, for someone who does not follow the sport closely, the term ‘offensive graduate assistant’ calls for a second, careful reading. But it turns out terms such as “Offensive Assistant (Football Coach)’, ‘offensive coordinator’ seem to be widespread despite the strange ambiguity.

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