Colin Kaepernick wasn’t always a Sports Illustrated cover boy.
The 49ers quarterback was once considered a better baseball prospect than football recruit at Pitman High in Turlock. His only scholarship offer to play major college football came from Nevada. Even with a record-setting college career, a big arm, sprinter speed and a huge frame, he apparently wasn’t good enough for any NFL general manager to draft in the first round.
Jim Harbaugh wasn’t always a Sports Illustrated cover boy, either.
The 49ers coach was once called a first-round bust with the Bears, only to become a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Colts. He was told he’d have to prove himself as a head coach, so he took a non-scholarship program at the University of San Diego to two conference titles. Doubters said that was small-college ball, so he went to Stanford and showed the Cardinal the Bowl Championship Series.
All of this helps explain why the NFC champions have a big fan in Jeff Garcia.
“Jim Harbaugh’s done an excellent job, a great job from a management standpoint,” Garcia said. “When you have the type of players they have and are able to bring those players together to play as one, that’s when you get the results you’re getting now.
“Jim Harbaugh is just all guts and blood and sweat and tears.”
It’s how 49er Faithful remember Garcia, who was told he wasn’t good enough, tall enough, or whatever enough out of Gilroy High, Gavilan College and San Jose State. So he went to the Canadian Football League and won a Grey Cup MVP.
The 49ers drafted Joe Montana in the third round. They traded for a so-called Buccaneers bust named Steve Young. They found Garcia in the CFL, and now Kaepernick in the second round.
As a competitor, Garcia said he wishes he had played in a Super Bowl. But the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback felt pride as he watched San Francisco rally past Atlanta on Sunday to win its first NFC title in 18 years.
“I’m happy for the organization, happy for the DeBartolo-York family,” Garcia said. “I grew up a 49er fan. I grew up watching my idols, Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott.”
Garcia predicts a physical Super Bowl.
“People say, ‘Baltimore, they play in the black-and-blue division,’” Garcia said. “Well, the 49ers play with a black-and-blue mentality.”
Garcia said the game being played in a dome means “no excuses for the kickers,” and he hopes his former Eagles teammate, embattled 49ers kicker David Akers, can silence critics.
“I hope to see David, who is a former teammate of mine, get everything together for himself and have a chance to win that game,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the read-option movement of which Kaepernick might be king is “here to stay.”
“The expectations on the quarterback, it’s far above what was expected out of that position before,” he said.
Which is one reason why Garcia is helping train the next generation of quarterbacks with Jeff Garcia Football, his QB development company in San Diego.
One player he hopes to eventually work with is San Jose State signal caller David Fales, who led the Spartans to an 11-2 season in 2012.
“I’m very proud of what they accomplished,” Garcia said of the Spartans. “Now that they are switching generals so to speak, hopefully the new guy (head coach Ron Caragher), being a local guy who grew up in Morgan Hill and knows the area, can keep things going in that direction and build on it.”
Garcia has had many titles in his career, but he might relish being called a teacher more than a Pro Bowler.
“I want to just be positive for all these young quarterbacks who really want to learn how to play the game at the highest level, with my experience and my knowledge and what I battled to achieve throughout my life,” Garcia said. “I learned the game from my dad, and that was really how I was able to create success. I want to welcome kids from Gilroy and surrounding areas to join me for a week of sessions. At some point, I’d like to get back up there to Gilroy and put on clinics, not just for QBs, but kids of all positions, and show them what it’s all about.”
It turns out being lightly recruited out of Gilroy or Turlock doesn’t mean one can’t fulfill his dream of being a 49er. Just ask the teacher and the Sports Illustrated cover boys.