Harbaugh goes old school to motivate his players

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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.

32 responses to “Harbaugh goes old school to motivate his players

  1. Sounds incredibly interesting. Can we see the list?

    Perhaps show the Ravens, Pats, and Falcons roster too?

  2. That’s pretty cool. Both teams have a lot to prove this Sunday, it’ll be a tough loss for one of them.

  3. wow….i wish Raiders had a coach like this guy…a true inspirational coach. Dennis Allen, an emotionless coach, that lacks motivational skills. Its going to be another long reason for the Raiders……hey Jon Gruden…are you reading this? Please talk to Mark Davis….he will definitely consider bringing you back.

  4. Sometimes I long for the times when info like this never left the locker room.

    I’d rather read this in his biography 10 years from now and chuckle.

    Maybe I’m wired different?

  5. Love him or hate him, he knows how to motivate players.

    It’s important for them to understand how far they have come, and what they dreamed of doing when they were that age (ie, winning a Super Bowl.)

  6. As a fan of the team who probably follows 80% of them on twiter, I can tell you the players LOVED THIS. They were all tweeting out pictures of each other’s cards. It was pretty cool. And amazing to see that Randy Moss was #1’s across the board (State, National, Position rank, and Overall Rank).

  7. all former players also remember your high school coach’s pep talk-
    “do you want it?”
    “next time you look into a mirror….”
    “do you have what it takes” (coach pointing to his stomach)
    “do you have the intestinal fortitude”

  8. this is not new. this is an old trick that has been used in college for decades. let’s not crown Harbaugh some motivational genius here…he has simply hijacked a great idea, but make no mistake…it ain’t his.

  9. @mikeinsanfran

    Pretty sure it’s common knowledge that Moss was a once in a decade talent that only ended up at Marshall because of off field issues instead of ND or Florida St.

  10. If Coach had done things like this last year, we may not be hearing from players this year about how unprepared they were for the magnitude of the NFC Championship.

  11. Back in 1998 a team traveled to Minnesota and played a team that had the most points in NFL History everyone including Mother Mary picked the Vikings to win!

    So what happened????????

    Many many people are VERY VERY over confident…. If Atlanta wins I would love to see how many come back and NOT post excuses…..

    Like Marco said in Taken…. “Good Luck”

  12. People may not appreciate his demeanor at times, but look no further than Randy Moss making downfield blocks this late in the year as evidence of Harbaugh’s touch with players.

    Moss has never been this cooperative about a small role in his career.

    Having said that, I think Moss could end up being more of a factor in the next game (or two) than he has been all year.

  13. The LA Times had a link to Patrick Willis’ sheet:

    National Ranking Overall: Unranked
    National Ranking by Position: 60th
    State Ranking Overall: Unranked
    Rating: 3 stars

  14. fuglyflorio says:

    Every coach does this. He probably owes Tom Coughlin money since he holds the patent.
    As if Coughlin was the first to ever do this. Coaches have used this motivational tool for years. It may come as a shock to you, but not everything good and/or original originates from my native city of New York.

    Also, nowhere does it say that Harbaugh was the first or that he claims to be the first to do this.

  15. Here’s hoping the Falcons win and an end is puit to stupid stories like this. Genius for that? Really? Clueless 49ers fans.

  16. As a Falcon fans I can’t help but admitt that the 49ers have the momentum comming into this game. Jim Harbaugh impresses me every time I watch them play. The Falcons have shown the capability to beat anyone, they play extremely tough at home. However, the 49ers will be ready, they will be motivated. What will make this a long day for Atlanta is if the 49ers can maintain this momentum and execute early in the game. If Atlanta can swing the momentum their way early and keep it close going into the last minutes of the fourth quarter, Atlanta has shown they can win the close ones. Contain Colin, make him throw inside pocket, use the advantage of White, Jones, and Gonzalez over the San Fran secondary. That’s how Atlanta will win.

  17. Absolutely brilliant. This team is on a mission and on the verge of greatness. Top to bottom, the most complete team in the league going into next year and favorites to repeat as super bowl champs!

  18. Most of the rankings at the “Big 3”: Scout, Rivals, and ESPN are done by unqualified guys who got that position due to being more enthusiastic about recruiting rather than having any credentials. Also, players unlikely to be ranked unless they can afford to go to offseason camps where the real rankings are given out.

    We make fun of NFL teams over reaching based on NFL combine workouts in shorts and t-shirts, so it’s no different than high school rankings. Most of the “experts” barely make it to games outside their immediate region or are unable to tell how good a player is against inferior high schoolers.

  19. thekingdave – Totally agree with you. It was just cool to see the #1’s across the board when most players showing their card had “not ranked” or very low rankings

  20. Unfortunately for those of us who are soldout fanatics of the game, this one won’t be (in my humble opinion) a sixty minute classic as most are thinking. Aside from a tense moment or two on the sides of both teams, I see this as a tad one sided favoring the Niners. Based on what? 1)Atlanta finally “made it over the hump” with a playoff win, and I’m betting they still have not figured out where their collective heads are; 2) superior Niner defense. That is what the Falcons will have to beat – I don’t think they can; 3) One-Dimensional- we-will-do-this-my-way Nolan calls their D; and 4) GRo’s play calling, and 5)Colin Kaepernick.

  21. Put up old pictures? From the title, I thought you were going to report that coach H. bit the head off a rattler or something!

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