How Jim Harbaugh got his fiery nature

This is about Jim Harbaugh’s football pedigree, how he became who he is. Specifically, it’s about his father Jack, a legendary football coach who instilled Harbaugh-tude into his kids Jim and John, both groomed to be coaches.

To pursue this theme I phoned former NFL and college coach Fred von Appen. Fred coached 49ers special teams under Bill Walsh from 1983-88 and was Walsh’s defensive coordinator at Stanford from 1992-94, so that’s how you may remember him.

He was an assistant coach at Oregon and Stanford in the ‘70s, and during this time he met Jack Harbaugh.

Here are von Appen’s recollections of Jack Harbaugh:

“I first got to know Jack Harbaugh based on his reputation. He was a long time assistant coach in college. I was a film exchange coach at Oregon, and Jack coached the secondary at Michigan under Bo Schembechler. When we play each other we’d exchange tidbits on coaching.

“He was also on Jack Elway’s staff at Stanford, and I’d always heard really good things about him from his players. He was a high energy, very determined, very emotional coach. He was very inspirational to his players.

“Back when I coached at Stanford I was looking for a house in Palo Alto and Jack and his family was selling one. Jim was a student at Palo Alto high school at the time. I went over to the house one day and met the family. Jim was at the table doing his homework.

“Here’s a story. Stanford football used to conduct meetings in Maples Pavilion. The basketball team also practiced here, and one day Jack thought the basketball team was being too loud. So he went over to the coach of the basketball team, Dick DiBiaso, who is 6’6” or 6’7”, and he told him to ‘shut the f— up!’ The two guys went at it and the players from the football team and the basketball team had to pull them apart. That’s the kind of fire-brand Harbaugh is.”


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