There are two ways to go, it seems, when you are the son of a coach. You can watch him work those insane hours, see him plunge all this character-building effort into young men other than yourself, and you can choose to run in the opposite direction, or you can follow him into a life of extremely late nights and ungodly early mornings.
The Harbaugh family has done that. Twice.
You know about John and Jim following father Jack into the family business, but there is also grandson Jay, son of Jim, who now works for uncle John. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury-News had a great story about Jay’s path into coaching.
Unlike his father and his uncle, Jay does not have the dark hair and a clean shaven face with features of chiseled stone, instead accessorizing his angular face with an auburn beard. And unlike the generation above him, Jay was not a star player with a long playing career to serve as his resume. He spent his high school years in the San Diego area while Jim served as head coach at the University of San Diego, and then worked for Mike Riley, a former coach of his father’s, as an undergraduate assistant at Oregon State – which eventually led him into direct competition against his father when Jim took the Stanford job. A knee injury ended his career before high school graduation, so Harbaugh’s college choice was made with a future in coaching in mind.
“I looked around and the kids who were good in math talked about going to college for engineering,” he said. “I thought, ‘I love football. Why not go to school for that?'”
Jay worked the insane hours that he was apparently genetically determined to work, and then moved to Baltimore to work under John in a variety of roles with the Ravens. He contributed to his father’s Super Bowl defeat in New Orleans a year and a half ago, and has since risen to the role of offensive quality control within the Ravens’ organization.
After Tim Drevno left the 49ers’ staff in January to become the offensive line coach at USC, Dad reached out to see if Son wanted to join the staff.
“I’m in such a good place and working with such good people, I didn’t see any reason to leave,” Jay said, noting that his role in Baltimore, which requires him to provide a statistical analysis and produce an opponents’ scouting report, places him in what he calls a “football incubator.”
When the two talk football, Jim says it’s often Jay providing the insight to his father, and not the other way around. That wisdom includes this answer to how Jay confronts the inevitable questions about nepotism. “One time, I asked, ‘Do guys give you a hard time about working for your uncle, automatically look at that as the reason you got the job?'” Jim said. “His response was: ‘It’s my responsibility to not give them the opportunity to confirm that suspicion.'”