Jim Harbaugh: a true king of the hill; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh’s run of success did not start in the NFL; it started right here at USD

By Hugo Werstler

Super Bowl XLVIII had everything. A sibling rivalry. A veteran quarterback against a trailblazing second-year counterpart. A half-time extravaganza that could have been seen from space if not for the roof on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. And lest we forget the mysterious blackout that gave us ample time to fill the salsa bowls and run to the store for more chips.

Most of the West Coast held their heads a little lower after Sunday night, but it wasn’t for long. With a Super Bowl appearance under his belt, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gained valuable experience and will continue to develop under coach Jim Harbaugh.

It may be hard for many USD students to associate Harbaugh’s furious attitude with our university but Torero Stadium was in fact where his coaching career began. Many of the decisions Harbaugh made on the sidelines in New Orleans on Sunday are the same ones he made in San Diego just seven years ago.

It was USD athletic director Ky Snyder who hired Harbaugh in 2004. In an article from the San Diego Union Tribune Snyder said “You watched the speed and the intensity and how he went about things, you knew he was going to be a pretty good coach…You knew he’s got a plan strategically on what he’s trying to accomplish and how to do that.”

Harbaugh spent just three seasons as head football coach at USD before taking the same job at Stanford University, but he did not fail to leave a legacy behind. His commitment to hard work, enthusiasm, and the intensity he brings to his tasks can be seen both on the field and in the classroom.

I had the privilege of seeing Harbaugh when he and the 49ers visited USD in the fall of 2011. He gathered the players in a circle and spoke mostly of encouragement. What was most memorable, however, was his recalling of the fond memory of walking up the hill that leads from Manchester Field to the fieldhouse above Torero Stadium. He said he embraced the long trek and that it was the kind of struggle he looked forward to every day.

On Sunday evening, Harbaugh might have lost his footing on his trek up the hill. However, I have few doubts that it will stop him from climbing it in the end.