At the age of 16, Jim Harbaugh sat in the stands at Candlestick Park and couldn’t believe how cold it was.
The 49ers coach attended his first football game 33 years ago at the stadium he now calls "iconic."
He later played his first meaningul NFL action and coached his first professional football game in the venue, too.
“First time I ever went there was when my dad was coaching at Stanford,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “(He) took us to a Raiders-49ers preseason game… I remember sitting there like, ‘It’s not this cold back in Michigan.’
“We just moved to California and they said it was going to be cold. They had us kids in our warm jackets, but it was still cold.”
Jim Harbaugh survived The ‘Stick that night, but it wasn’t the last challenging experience he’d encounter there.
READ: Saying Goodbye to The 'Stick | 49ers Faithful Share Memories
When the 49ers coach was a backup quarterback the Chicago Bears, Harbaugh was called into spot duty in the end of a blowout loss at Candlestick.
On Dec. 14, 1987, Harbaugh completed 8-of-11 passes for 62 yards and was sacked three times. It was Harbaugh's first real NFL action in the regular season.
The 49ers beat the Bears 41-0. Chicago’s starting quarterback Mike Tomczak threw four interceptions and it was time for Harbaugh to be called into mop-up duty.
“We got beat, I remember that,” Harbaugh said. “We got beat pretty bad.”
The former Bears quarterback went on to have success in San Francisco as the franchise's 18th head coach. Since joining the 49ers in 2011, Harbaugh is 18-4-1 in the regular season at Candlestick Park.
Harbaugh has a chance to win six-or-more games at Candlestick for a third straight season with a win in the final home game of the stadium's 43-year existence.
When asked about the significance of the final regular season home game this Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, Harbaugh initially answered with an eye on the future.
“I think it would be forward,” the 49ers coach said of his emotions towards the stadium's finale. “Wanting to win this game for many reasons, the most being that we gotta win it, to accomplish our goals this season. It’s the next game, which makes it the biggest game of the season.”
Harbaugh then began to touch on the long-term importance of Monday’s game.
“It’s the last game at Candlestick and we don’t want to be the guys that screw up the last game in Candlestick. These players will come back 20-25 years from now and they want to have a good memory of winning at Candlestick.
“I think that’ll be very important, not only for them, but for all the guys that played for the 49ers and have that legacy of playing with the team and playing at Candlestick that want to go out with a win. So, probably more forward-thinking than I am nostalgically at this point. Make sure we work hard to give ourselves the best chance of doing that.”
All-time the 49ers are 24-11 at Candlestick Park on “Monday Night Football.”
Harbaugh recognized that it’s not just football moments that make Candlestick special, it's also about the many legendary athletes who have competed in the stadium.
“So many players that have played for the 49ers and played for other teams in the National Football League or in Major League Baseball that have passed through those dugouts or sidelines to play on that field,” the 49ers coach said.
“There will be tremendous memories from everybody that’s ever played there. That’s why it’s important for us not to screw it up and make sure we get this win this Sunday.”
Harbaugh concluded his thoughts on Candlestick by stressing his desire to be victorious on Monday night.
“It’d be an honor to be on that sideline for the last game at Candlestick and we want to win it.”