Posted: 10:00 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013
By David Fucillo
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media, and as expected, there was a whole lot of talk about the return of numerous former Stanford football players. Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener are arguably the most notable, but the group includes wide receiver Griff Walen, safety Delano Howell and offensive coordinator Pep Hamitlon. While it will be all business come game time, I'm sure there will be plenty of hugs and hand-shakes before the game.
Here's the transcript from Coach Harbaugh's media session.
You were with Colts QB Andrew Luck for three years, three seasons. What did you teach him that helped him become the football player he is now?
"He came in with a lot of talent and a lot of things taught by his mother and father, and other God-given ability. But, he's one of the top players in the league, which is no surprise. He does so many things extremely well and it's going to be quite a bit of a reunion this week with some of the guys that played at Stanford that we know well. Not necessarily a good thing."
"Because they're good."
How often have, in the last couple of seasons, have you talked to Andrew in this last year?
"I don't know exactly how many times."
You've stayed in touch?
"Yeah, we've stayed in touch."
He said today that you're a big reason why he is where he is and playing for the Stanford program, being part of that turnaround. Do you feel the same way, that where you are today, he had a nice hand in that?
"Well, that's very generous of him to say and there's no question that the association with Andrew, I feel like we all drew the long straw in his contributions to the Stanford University, not only the football team, but everybody that he came in contact with."
How do you confuse him on the football field?
"That's an interesting question and a good one. The answer isn't a real good one because there's not a lot that confuses him or rattles him. So, more than he doesn't handle well and he's just that kind of player."
He joked today that he didn't have the athleticism to run the read option like so many other quarterbacks are doing now a days. Do you buy that and did you guys ever think about that or tinker with that at Stanford?
"Yeah, we did, we did do it and no, 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 [Steelers QB Ben] Roethlisberger-like. He throws with a lot of velocity even though it's a throwing motion it's pretty smooth. Ball comes out a lot faster than you think it does and with a lot more velocity than you think. Just very, very blessed athletically is Andrew."
Does S Eric Reid continue to make good progress from what you told us Monday?
"Yeah, he's been good, no setbacks and pretty much what he said after the game, that he felt good, felt clear without any symptoms and that's remained the case."
You mentioned his ability to absorb hits. He's taken quite a few sacks in his one-plus seasons. Did you see that toughness at Stanford as well?
"Yeah. There's never a sign that it does affect him. When you get hit hard he'll pop back up and pat somebody on the shoulder or helmet and say, ‘nice hit.' He's got the ability to extend plays. I saw the game-winning touchdown against Oakland in the opener. Over and over, examples of his ability to extend plays with his feet and also with his strength. Very much like Roethlisberger does."
In his rookie year, it's tough enough to come into the NFL as a rookie, but to also lose your head coach for the season three games in. Did you talk to him at all last season about that just as a support or friend? Did you guys, were you in touch at all during that time?
"No. Just a few texts and congratulations here and there and that type of thing. But, he's a guy that doesn't need a lot of advice."
That's just an unusual circumstance.
"Yeah it is, and I think everybody in their entire organization handled it. It was commendable."
Was he that mature from the get-go at Stanford? Did you see that from the moment you met him that level of maturity?
What were the signs of that, that you can point to this many years later?
"Of his level of maturity?"
Just what your first impressions of him were?
"Plus-plus. A-plus-plus. It was similar to [QB] Colin [Kaepernick] 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."
Do you recall after that Manning Passing Academy talking to Andrew about Colin?
What was said? Had you heard of Colin Kaepernick before that?
"Yeah, I'd heard of him. When Andrew came back from the Academy, just asked him what quarterbacks stood out to him, who was good. And then I asked him who he got along with, and then he kind of, he lit up talking about Colin, was the first name out of his mouth. I thought that spoke volumes. Then when I met Colin in person I could see why. I could see the similarities in the two."
Why would you ask him, just curiosity or what?
"I was just kind of interested, yeah. Just making conversation."
What role do you see for FB Owen Marecic?
"Backup fullback to FB Bruce Miller, and then a special teams role. Probably a backup position at first, but we'll see where it develops."
Why not sign a nose tackle to replace a nose tackle?
"We feel confident with [DT] Tony Jerod-Eddie. Somebody that's worked extremely hard going on two years now. We feel like it's his time to step up and he's the next man up and deserves that opportunity. And we feel good about it too."
Going back to Bruce Miller, how much more comfortable is he and what strides have you seen from him a couple years into this?
"Plus-plus across the board. Someone that has a very special place in my heart and with the team as well. He's always about being the disciple of the team, what helps the team win. A great team player."
That place in your heart- -.
"He's a football player."
Does that also go to him making the switch and taking that challenge on and--?
"Yeah. I mean one of the real lead stories on our team. He made that switch coming out of college and I couldn't be more pleased with Bruce."
It's been well documented you were a big fan of Owen's in college--.
"He's got a close place in my heart too. Yeah, he does."
For whatever reason it didn't seem to work out with Cleveland. Do you think this could be just a needed change of scenery, being back with familiar faces, get things headed in the right direction again for him?
"It certainly could. And hopeful for Owen and us that that's the case."
Do you think he'll have a two-way ability similar to how TE/DT Demarcus Dobbs in the past has been?
"I don't anticipate that right now, no."
Will TE Vernon Davis get the chance to go out there against his brother? There's a lot about that matchup too, them getting on the same field together. Is his leg going to allow that?
"We'll see. It'll be day to day."
Can you imagine that there's that side story to this reunion you were talking about?
"Yeah. That would be wonderful for the two of them. Have they ever played against each other before?"
No. Any advice having gone against your brother that you'll offer to Vernon?
"No, not really that I can think of right now. Everybody's got their role, their job and go out and fill that to the best of your God-given ability."
Colts TE Coby Fleener looks like he's going to get more action in that offense. Was he in the conversation in 2012 when you guys were thinking about who to draft?
"Yes, of course."
What is he good at? What can he bring to that offense?
"I think you saw last week the contributions that he makes. He's got real good ability to go downfield and stretch defenses. Post, corner, big catch radius, good speed and strong, he's tough. He's a very versatile player."
Do you have more ticket requests this week from your buddies at Stanford, head football coach David Shaw or his staff? Do you expect a lot of those guys to be at this one?
"It could be. [Former Stanford OL] Andrew Phillips had texted me and I think they got something brewing where quite a few of the fellas that played with Andrew and [Colts WR] Griff [Whalen] and [Colts S] Delano [Howell] and Coby are kind of orchestrating something to be at the game."
How come you hired Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton?
"Just very impressed with his resume and interview, and he did not disappoint. He did a fabulous job."