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Super Bowl

Ain’t no mountain high enough for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh organizes his players for a team picture during Super Bowl XLVII media day in New Orleans, La., Jan. 29, 2013. (JOE SKIPPER/Reuters)

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh organizes his players for a team picture during Super Bowl XLVII media day in New Orleans, La., Jan. 29, 2013. (JOE SKIPPER/Reuters)


Apparently there really is no mountain Jim Harbaugh won’t climb – and faster than everybody else, too.

The San Francisco 49ers head coach corrals his assistants in the off-season and takes them on a mountain-climbing excursion.

Not the Mount Everest kind.

“We weren’t repelling off sheer rockface,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said on Wednesday, four days before Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (6:30 p.m. EST, CTV/CBS).

Rather, it’s more like extreme uphill hiking.

These outings speak not only to Harbaugh’s legendary competitiveness, but to the ways he motivates and bonds his assistant coaches as well as his players.

The coaches scale 2,599-foot Monument Peak, in Northern California – near Milpitas.

“We go up the back side. That’s more mountainy,” offensive line coach Tim Drevno said. “And there are some parts where you have to crawl on your hands to get to the top. I’d say probably three minutes into it, your heart feels like it’s coming through your chest, and your pulse is pounding.

“It’s to challenge the mind and the body. We do it in the off-season, before the OTAs, some time into March – on a Friday, when we’ve got an afternoon free.”

Roman said the coaches go in waves, and GM Trent Baalke goes, too.

“It’s real team-bonding,” Drevno said. “It’s cool, because you talk about a lot of stuff. One day, (secondary coach) Ed Donatell and I did it together. It’s a great time to get to know each other. Plus, you’re doing something challenging, and encouraging each other. There’s a trust level.”

Roman, who has made the climb once, agreed.

“Yeah, just for the challenge. To put ourselves through a little uncomfortable exercise.”

How uncomfortable?

“About two days later I couldn’t move,” Roman said.

Of course, the hyper-competitve Harbaugh – being who he is – sets it up as a race among the coaches.

And the 49-year-old wins. Always, he wins.

“You gotta understand Jim, now,” said Drevno, who is on his third stop in nine years assisting Harbaugh, after the University of San Diego and Stanford University. “He’s not going to lose. He’s that much of a competitor. He’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

What, like throw rocks down at the other coaches?

“No, but if he feels as though you’re on his heels,” Drevno said, “he’ll start speeding up and going. He might even start running it, to make sure he leaves you behind.

“I think his best time is like 52 minutes. It’d probably take me about an hour and 17 minutes. It’s pretty high.”

Roman, too, shakes his head at the indomitable spirit of his boss.

“He’s got to be the first one to the top,” Roman said. “It was not a hill either – it was a mountain. I mean, you could see Jim working to get to the top first.”

Don’t make the mistake of suggesting that these assistant coaches let their boss win. Doesn’t happen.

“No way,” Drevno said. “I’ll try to beat him if I can, absolutely – absolutely. But it’s a pretty tough deal.

“The hardest thing is coming down. You feel it in your legs. It’s a butt-kicker, it really is.”

So, what DOES Harbaugh lose in away from the football field?

Nothing, Drevno swears.

“Every time I’ve ever been around Jim Harbaugh, he always wins,” Drevno said.


“Yes. And I’ve been with him for nine years.”

At what else does he win?

“I’ve seen him in basketball, 1-on-1. Racquetball. We used to run up a canyon hill at the University of San Diego. We’d take the entire team up and run it. He’d beat every individual. It doesn’t matter – he’ll find a way to win.

“To be quite honest, I’ve never seen him lose. In anything.”

So how would Harbaugh react if someone ever did beat him in basketball, or cards – or up that mountain?

“Then he’d be really, really upset,” Drevno said. “And he’d never let it happen again. He’d find a solution. He’d just put it in his mind that it won’t happen again.”

Of course, even the best head coaches in the NFL lose at least a third of their games over the course of their careers. Harbaugh does not handle losing well.

“He’s upset. We’re all upset,” Drevno said. “But the next day when he comes in, he’s ready to fix the problem and get better, and we’re not going to let this happen again. He’s wonderful that way. He really is.”

A day earlier, John Harbaugh was asked about his younger brother’s tenacity. Having seen it as far back as he can remember, the Ravens head coach said: “I think he’s great at everything he does, and I really believe that.”

That comment makes a bit more sense now.


Colin Kaepernick is a helluva passer.

Not just with footballs. With passing the buck, too.

The San Francisco 49ers quarterback said he was given 15 tickets to distribute to family or friends. Kaepernick, 25, grew up in Turlock, Calif., 170 km south of San Francisco. There are a lot of Niners fans in his circle.

How did he decide who got a ticket and who didn’t?

He didn’t.

“I got all of my 15 tickets and I gave them all to my parents to distribute to the rest of my family,” Kaepernick said on Wednesday. “That’s not my business.”

Yes, he’s one fast quarterback.


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