America looks at Jim Harbaugh and sees one of the NFL's brightest and most charismatic coaches who wears the same black 49ers sweatshirt and hat every day leading up to Super Bowl XLVII. Chicago still sees No. 4. America hears Harbaugh heaping praise on Bo Schembechler and Bill Walsh for their influences, as he did again Thursday. Chicago still wonders how Harbaugh's hearing survived six seasons with Mike Ditka. America ponders Harbaugh's legacy as a 49ers coach. Chicago still remembers a better-than-your-average Bears quarterback. Chicago remembers a gutsy leader who spent his first seven NFL seasons playing home games at Soldier Field, going 35-30 as a starter from 1987-93 — a player whose first year in a Bears uniform was Walter Payton's last. At Harbaugh's first mini-camp practice after the Bears selected him in the first round of the 1987 NFL draft, Payton welcomed the quarterback to the huddle by pulling down his shorts. "I was like, 'Hey, Walter Payton pulled a prank on me. I feel kind of special,''' Harbaugh later told reporters. Chicago remembers a player former Bears general manager Bill Tobin called, "one of the two most competitive guys I was ever associated with,'' in 42 years as an NFL executive. Payton was the other. Harbaugh made that impression immediately by rushing to old Halas Hall from his parents' home in Michigan on draft day to meet his new coaches, even as chicken pox covered his body. Tobin and Ditka still were busy selecting players so an antsy Harbaugh killed time playing racquetball. The same enthusiasm drove Harbaugh to travel to Platteville, Wis., for his first training camp without a contract and order agent Leigh Steinberg to get a deal done. Chicago remembers a competitor who knew only one speed regardless of the score, a trait painfully obvious from Harbaugh's NFL debut Dec. 14, 1987, according to former Bears center Jay Hilgenberg. In the second half of a 41-0 loss to the 49ers team he now coaches, not every Bear shared the rookie quarterback's exuberance.
Harbaugh's winning ways
Chicago Tribune | Feb 1