Super Bowl XLVII: The Best Harbaugh Stories in Existence
Can't get enough of the Harbaugh brothers? We've got you covered.
As you likely already know, Jim and John Harbaugh will become the first brothers to ever coach against one another in a Super Bowl when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans this Sunday.
On their way to the big game, these two men have lived remarkable lives that have spawned some very interesting stories.
Follow along as we take a look at the best ones that have been made public.
Sharing a Room
Siblings share rooms. While it's typically not an ideal situation for all parties involved, most of us have done it at some point in our lives.
Before the Harbaugh brothers squared off on Thanksgiving last season, the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer delved into their tenure as roommates.
"John came up with this thing where he put a piece of athletic tape across the floor of the room we shared," said Jim. "He proclaimed that I wasn't allowed to come on his side of the tape, and he wasn't allowed to come on my side."
Jim agreed to the plan, only later to realize most of the prime items — a record player, radio, desk and alarm clock — were on his brother's side of the room. Jim had the closet where they kept their clothes and the bedroom door on his side, yet John was allowed to use those as necessary.
"So the deal was the deal," Jim said. "But there are those 10 or 12 defining moments in your life, and that was one of them. I learned a valuable lesson the hard way: You negotiate a good deal up front."
I don't care who you are—that's funny.
Competitive Fire Burns from a Young Age
The Harbaugh brothers have always been fiercely competitive.
Just look at this picture. Notice the young man in the middle of the back row with a psychotic look on his face? That's Jim Harbaugh. John is standing right next to him on the left, but Jim is the one who stands out.
They would take sleeveless T-shirts, draw on them with the names of Big Ten schools and would wear them while they'd compete, often with a tennis ball and a coat hanger fashioned into a basketball rim.
David Thayer, now a psychologist in Kalamazoo, grew up in Ann Arbor and played three seasons on the Ann Arbor Junior Packers with the Harbaughs beginning in 1973.
"Their competitiveness, their intensity, the connection between them, their talent — they had an aura about them," Thayer said. "They were equally intense. Jim would always play up (a higher age group), and it was hard to remember sometimes that Jim was 15 months younger. They were equally competitive."
Looking back at where they came from, it shouldn't surprise anyone to know that the Harbaugh brothers made it to the top of their profession in such a short amount of time.
Teenagers at Michigan
The Harbaugh brothers grew up around one of the legends of college football, Bo Schembechler, at the University of Michigan.
Jack Harbaugh was one of Schembechler's assistants from 1973-79.
In 1973, John was 11 and Jim was 10, so the two of them spent their prepubescent and teenage years under the influence of one of the most influential men to ever coach the game of football.
One story from their time at Michigan features the younger Harbaugh, per The Detroit News' Angelique S. Chenglis:
Then there's the famous story about 12-year-old Jim, who entered Schembechler's empty office, sat in the chair and propped his feet on the desk. Schembechler, who had been playing racquetball with Jack Harbaugh, walked in.
"Well, how are you doing today, Jim?" Schembechler said, according to a Los Angeles Times interview with Jim Harbaugh in 1986.
"I'm doing fine, Bo, how are you doing?"
Jim was never one to be timid, even in his youth. The elder brother has always been a bit more reserved, as Chenglis writes:
Countless stories have been told about how John Harbaugh would attend Michigan practices, and when he wasn't running around and goofing off, he was actually paying attention and would ask questions of the coaches, including his father.
He relished those days and often has talked about being taped to the goalpost and stuffed in lockers by Michigan players, calling that "a privilege."
It's clear that the brothers were inundated with football culture from a young age, and their time spent with Schembechler has served them well throughout the years.
Jim Takes John's Starting QB Spot in High School
John Harbaugh was supposed to be the starting quarterback for the Pioneer Purple Pride his senior year.
However, as The Detroit News' Angelique S. Chenglis reports:
During his senior season at Pioneer, John Harbaugh was set to start at quarterback. He caught a finger in a teammate's jersey during practice, and had to give up the quarterback dream. He moved to defensive back and running back. Jim Harbaugh, a sophomore, became the starting quarterback.
If you look closely at the picture, it's noted that the team struggled to win until Jim Harbaugh took over under center.
This is proof that the younger Harbaugh brother has always been the more athletic of the two, which was shown by the vastly different paths their careers took after college.
Jim Harbaugh Makes 'Guarantee' at Michigan
Joe Namath isn't the only brash young quarterback to have guaranteed victory in a huge game.
Jim Harbaugh did it back in 1986 as a senior for the University of Michigan, getting ready to face Ohio State with a Rose Bowl berth on the line.
According to USA Today's Mike Lopresti, Harbaugh stood in front of reporters during the week leading up to the big game and said, "I guarantee we'll beat Ohio State and be in Pasadena New Year's Day. People might not give us a snowball's chance in hell to beat them in Columbus, but we're going to."
Head coach Bo Schembechler didn't approve, and Lopresti writes:
Jerry Hanlon was the Michigan quarterbacks coach. "First thing that happened, I thought I was going to get fired,'' he said over the phone Wednesday. "First thing Bo (head coach and noted old-schooler Schembechler) says, "Can't you control those athletes of yours?"'
Thankfully for Hanlon and Michigan, Harbaugh and the Wolverines went on to win the game by a score of 26-24.
Many fans have wondered about Harbaugh's level of crazy since he joined the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, but judging by this story, he's toned things down considerably since his college days.
John Harbaugh Has a Flyin' College Roommate
Flyin' Brian Pillman was a professional wresting star in the 1980s and '90s.
He was also a nose tackle and college roommate of John Harbaugh, who was a defensive back at the University of Miami (Ohio).
After Pillman died in 1997, Harbaugh spoke about his old roommate, via the Philadelphia Inquirer's Phil Sheridan:
He was a great guy, but a crazy guy. They started him off as a "good guy" [in wrestling], but they made him into a bad guy. He was one of the "Four Horsemen." He made a better bad guy. But really, he was the best football player I ever played with.
Pillman's son, also named Brian, has had Harbaugh take an active role in his life since his father's death.
In an article published in 2010 from ProWrestling.net, Harbaugh talked about the similarity between father and son: "It’s amazing. He has that same nose guard stance as his dad, and he’s quick and ferocious. He’s built similarly. Their mannerisms are the same. It’s uncanny."
Harbaugh Brothers Unite to Save Dad's Program
Jack Harbaugh's program at Western Kentucky was really hurting in the mid-1990s.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel, Harbaugh was in danger of losing his job before his two sons stepped in to lend a helping hand.
The plan was simple: Jim owned a home in Orlando, the heart of one of the most talent-rich recruiting areas in the country. So he became an NCAA-certified volunteer assistant coach for WKU, which allowed him to recruit. John, meanwhile, leaned on the scouting services, deep contacts and endless high school game footage they had at Cincinnati, which as a Division I-A school had a far larger budget than Division I-AA Western Kentucky.
After NFL seasons, John would supply a list of potential hidden gems along the Interstate-4 corridor in Central Florida that, while not right for Cincinnati, could be great for WKU. Jim would pay them a visit and use his stature as an active NFL star to talk up a little known school in Bowling Green, Ky.
The plan was simple, but boy, did it work.
After a 2-8 season in 1995, Western Kentucky went on a 10-year run of winning seasons.
Note: Reading Wetzel's entire column is highly recommended.
Ray Lewis Notches First Career Sack Against Jim Harbaugh
You see, Lewis' first career sack came at the expense of Harbaugh back in 1996, the year after Harbaugh won the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award.
Small world, right?
As if we needed any more connections between these two teams.
Jim Harbaugh Benches His Starting QB Midseason
NFL teams don't normally bench the starting quarterback when he's winning games and playing out of his mind, but that's exactly what Jim Harbaugh did this season.
Alex Smith went down with a concussion in Week 10, and Harbaugh had to start Colin Kaepernick in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears. Before he was hurt, Smith had been on fire, completing 25-of-27 passes for over 300 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last six quarters.
Kaepernick had a nice game against the Bears, passing for 243 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, but most people thought the logical move would be to stick with Smith the rest of the way.
That didn't stop Harbaugh from going with the unproven youngster.
Kaepernick suffered some growing pains along the way, but Harbaugh's bold move to go with the more dynamic playmaker has proven to be the right one to this point.
John Harbaugh Fires His Offensive Coordinator in December
You don't fire your offensive coordinator with just three games left in the regular season when you have a chance to make the playoffs.
At least, that is what conventional wisdom would say, but don't tell that to John Harbaugh.
Harbaugh fired Cam Cameron after the team's Week 14 loss to the Washington Redskins this past season, and promoted Jim Caldwell to take his place.
Harbaugh's decision didn't look smart at first, either, as the team lost two of its last three games under Caldwell's offensive leadership.
But after an explosion on offense in which the team has put up 90 points in its last three contests, and with Joe Flacco looking like the best quarterback on the planet, Harbaugh's decision has proven to be the right one.
Cameron has since called the decision a "brilliant move," according to the New York Times' Scott Cacciola, and said, “Everyone on the team took a look in the mirror after that.”
The results speak for themselves. The Ravens wouldn't be competing for the Lombardi Trophy this year if not for Harbaugh's bold move.
John Harbaugh Prank Calls His Parents
Jack and Jackie Harbaugh were holding a national teleconference when a strange question emerged from one of the callers.
According to USA Today's Gary Milhoces, "Question from Baltimore: Is it true that both of you like Jim better than John?" the caller asked in a serious tone.
Thankfully, Joani, Harbaugh's sister, was also on the call and recognized his voice.
"Is that John Harbaugh?" asked Jack Harbaugh. "Hey, John, Mom was ready to come right through this phone. I'm so happy that Joani recognized your voice."
Apparently, momma bear was ready to lash out.
This is just another example of what makes the Harbaugh family so special. They're fiercely loyal to one another, and the thought of someone thinking she would favor one son over the other sent Jackie over the edge.
The Harbaugh brothers were taught to compete at the highest level while maintaining respect for one another and their fellow competitors.
It's clear from the way the entire family has handled the limelight, pomp and rare circumstance of the upcoming "Harbowl" that whoever comes away victorious, the brothers will remain as close-knit as ever before.
Both coaches are viewed in the the highest regard by their players, and both will fight until the bitter end to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78