The 49ers might be road favorites this weekend against the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game, but coach Jim Harbaugh took a step to remind his players that many of them were underdogs not that long ago.
As a motivational ploy, Harbaugh had photos pulled of each of his players from high school, and put them next to their high school recruiting rankings.
Some of them were five-star recruits, some weren’t, but they all got a reminder of how far they’ve come.
“Coach really wants us to tap into what we wanted to be at that time,” safety Donte Whitner said, via Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. “When you look at this picture, it’s like, ‘At this moment, what did I want to be?’ We all look at this and we understand what we wanted to be, and where we are now.”
The photos also create some natural banter in the locker room. So even though wide receiver Randy Moss was one of the top recruits in the nation, his is also one of two photos in black and white, and someone taped a note that read: “B.C. 1012” to his bio.
“I don’t think they had color pictures back then,” cornerback Chris Culliver said.
The reminders are the latest in a series of tactics by Harbaugh, which included giving out work shirts to remind his team to be blue-collar in their habits.
“It’s just something that spices things up a little bit to break up the monotony of the day,” 49ers chief executive Jed York said. “Something new for them to think about.
“You’ll get guys teasing each other, ‘Oh, you were only a three-star,’ or, ‘You weren’t even ranked.’ I remember NaVorro [Bowman] saying, ‘Guess they missed on me.'”
At a time when the world is telling his time how good they are, it’s a reminder for many of them that they still have plenty to prove.