SANTA CLARA, Calif. -
For any of the two dozen or so Bay Area high school football coaches who were expecting Jim Harbaugh to actually make a Knute Rockne speech, they were pleasantly surprised.
He offered anything but.
The 45-minute closed-door Visa promotion at the San Francisco 49ers headquarters Monday entitled "Gameday Speech Clinic" was more of a straight forward, in-the-trenches pow wow that hit the coaches right where it counted.
"I liked him right off because he peeled away the BS real fast and the motivational issues," Sequoia (Redwood City)
coach Rob Poulos said. "He got right to the heart of the matter – your relationship with the players. He wasn't selling a bill of goods. We found out there was a lot more similarities than differences between his level and ours."
Harbaugh, who graduated from
High School in 1982, called the meeting with the coaches "neat," he said. "It was as a wonderful experience."
Though he's known for a credo he learned from a Fresno State coach — "Play as hard as you can as fast as you can for as long as you can and don't worry," — Harbaugh said he's not a big motivational speech guy. "If those things
really could make a difference, you'd see motivational speakers as
coaches," he said drawing a laugh. "
I'm an information guy. That's what I think all good coaches are about."
That was music to the ears of 20-year Lincoln (San Jose)
coach Kevin Collins, who appreciated Harbaugh's sincerity, candor and "down-to-earth" nature, especially following Sunday's trying 24-24 tie with the Rams.
"It looked like he might not have slept particularly well and maybe he didn't want to be there," Collins said. "But he sure didn't act like it. … It's really neat to see a guy at his level going through the same things we go through.
Leigh (San Jose)
coach Kyle Padia said a nugget he pulled from Harbaugh that he'll share with assistants is to get ideas out on the table.
talked about trusting your coaches and putting your ego aside," said
Padia, a second-year head coach who played for his dad at Leigh before
earning a scholarship at Northern Illinois. A quarterback, like
Harbaugh, Padia often handed the ball to current Falcons' running back
Michael Turner at Northern Illinois.
"The best idea doesn't necessarily have to come from the
head coach. It's all about taking that plan and carrying it out. He's a
big proponent of preparation and practice and not necessarily needing a
big speech on game day.
"He said pregame speeches all are forgotten by the time you get out the field and warm-up anyway."
assistant coach Bob Carswell said meeting Harbaugh was exciting because of how brutally honest he was.
"He doesn't beat around the bush," said Carswell, whose son Brandon starred at Milpitas before playing four seasons at USC. "He gives you the straight stuff. He said he's not a great motivator and he doesn't really believe in it. He's more of a teacher than a coach."
Patrick Willis, the 49ers' five-time Pro Bowl linebacker, said that's not entirely true. He said Harbaugh is more than adequate as a motivator, reciting the "Play as hard as you can..." quote.
"To me that's like freedom," Willis said. "You've put in all the work and it's time to take off the chains and go out and just do what you do. ... Sure, coach gives us all the information we need, but he gets our blood pumping for sure."
You can contact MaxPreps national columnist Mitch Stephens by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MitchMashMax.