Walsh shared time, offensive philosophy with Harbaugh

Originally Published: July 30, 2007
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

STANFORD, Calif. -- Jim Harbaugh had his entire life to learn from his father, longtime college coach Jack Harbaugh. He had a college career to learn from Michigan legend Bo Schembechler.

But Harbaugh, whom Stanford hired as head coach last December, treasures the seven months he had in the same building with Bill Walsh, the former Stanford and San Francisco 49er head coach who died early Monday at age 75.

Walsh had an office in the Stanford athletic department, and came in as recently as early this month, according to Harbaugh.

"You never knew when he would be in his office," Harbaugh said last week. "I found myself walking down there to see if he was there. There are days when he'll come in and walk down and watch film, or sit for an hour-and-a-half and talk offensive philosophy and start drawing plays on paper, and I think, 'Oh my God, I'm going to laminate this!'"

In fact, Harbaugh went out and purchased a hand-held tape recorder to save Walsh's talks for posterity.

"He's a wealth of knowledge of Stanford history, of Stanford winning, and mainly just football," Harbaugh said. "Everything he says, you just hang on every word."

Walsh may have been a Pro Football Hall of Fame coach who revolutionized the game with his brand of the West Coast offense. He may have coached the 49ers to three Super Bowl championships. But he never wore a cloak of majesty.

"He's so genuine to be around, such a good sense of humor, personality, self-deprecating," Harbaugh said. "One day he talked for an hour. You're taking notes, you're picking up the drawings. Afterward, he said, 'Did I talk too long?'"

Harbaugh had a quick reply: "'God, no. Are you kidding?'

"They should erect a statue to him here," Harbaugh said. "His presence, how he's touched the game, and so many people, the way Bo does."

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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