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Harbaugh Goes Back with Luck, Kaepernick

Posted Sep 18, 2013

Taking a look at how the paths of Jim Harbaugh, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick crossed before they cross again on Sunday.

Jim Harbaugh claimed he was simply “making conversation” with Andrew Luck when the then-Stanford coach’s then-junior quarterback returned from the Manning Passing Academy.

What a conversation.

“I just asked him what quarterbacks stood out to him, who was good,” Harbaugh recalled Wednesday. “And then I asked him who he got along with, and he lit up talking about Colin, the first name out of his mouth.

“Then when I met Colin in person I could see why. I could see the similarities in the two.”

Colin, of course, would be Colin Kaepernick, whom Harbaugh drafted the next year, in 2011, after leaving the college ranks to take the helm in San Francisco.

So can you imagine a more interested observer when Kapernick and the 49ers host Luck and the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Candlestick Park?


“A-plus-plus,” Harbaugh said of his first impressions of Luck, when he stepped onto campus in 2008. “It was similar to Colin with their enthusiasm. How they interact with their teammates and coaches, really everybody that they come in contact with. Real gentlemen, both of those two young men. That was my first impression when I met Colin, was how much like Andrew he was from the personality standpoint.”

Three years after a casual player-coach chat, Luck too remembered the egoless Kaepernick, then a senior at Nevada, showing off his “live arm” at Peyton Manning’s annual summer camp for amateur signal-callers in Thibodaux, La.

To hear Indianapolis’ second-year star to tell it, however, the similarities stop in one respect. Yes, San Francisco’s offense has a Stanford-like look except when personnel allows Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman to kick it up a notch.

“I know I can’t do that,” Luck said of running the read-option scheme, which Harbaugh employed in small sample sizes in the then-Pac-10 Conference. “I’m definitely not athletic enough. There are some unbelievable athletes in the NFL. I try to make do with what my parents and god gave me.”

Harbaugh isn’t convinced.

“I don’t buy that he doesn’t have the athleticism. He is a, for lack of a better term, a freakishly good athlete. He’s a lot faster than you think he is and he’s really fast. Stronger than he looks, but then you see the evidence on the tape where guys are hitting him pretty solid, pretty hard and he’s able to just flinch it off, kind of (Ben) Roethlisberger-like.”


The statistics and game tape bear this out. Five of Luck’s 28 touchdowns during his rookie season in 2012 were of the rushing variety, and he’s averaging 7.6 yards per carry through two weeks this year. That mark was increased by his 19-yard, game-winning touchdown run over the Oakland Raiders in Week 1.

Luck’s current coach, Chuck Pagano, is convinced.

“When things break down, the guy’s athletic enough and strong enough and such a great competitor that he can extend plays,” Pagano said. “He just wills his team to win.”

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