Born on December 23, 1963, in Toledo, Ohio, Jim Harbaugh played quarterback for the University of Michigan and went on to success with the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts of the NFL. He then rose to the pinnacle of the coaching ranks with star turns at the University of San Diego, Stanford University and the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, before returning to Michigan as head football coach.
James Joseph Harbaugh was born on December 23, 1963, in Toledo, Ohio, to parents Jack and Jackie Harbaugh. Jack's profession as a football coach forced the family to move often, but it also left his children with indelible skills; Harbaugh and his older brother, John, both became athletes, while their younger sister, Joani, learned to splice game film for her dad by the time she was 10.
Notoriously brash and competitive, Harbaugh quarterbacked teams at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, Calif., before returning to Ann Arbor to play at the University of Michigan. He led the nation in passing efficiency and the Wolverines to the No. 2 overall ranking as a junior, then won Big Ten Conference Player of the Year honors and finished third in the Heisman Trophy race as a senior. He was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears.
Harbaugh played sparingly during his first few NFL seasons, but he emerged as the starting quarterback and led the Bears to identical 11-5 regular-season records and playoff appearances in 1990 and '91.
Acquired by the Indianapolis Colts in 1994, Harbaugh enjoyed a dream season in '95. Nicknamed "Captain Comeback" for his ability to rally his team, Harbaugh led the NFL in passer rating and carried the Colts to the cusp of the Super Bowl before his Hail Mary pass was knocked down in the final seconds of the AFC Conference championship loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harbaugh was named co-NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and earned his only Pro Bowl selection.
Harbaugh remained the Colts' primary quarterback through 1997, the year before they drafted Peyton Manning, then spent one year in Baltimore and two more in San Diego. He retired after the 2000 season with 26,288 career passing yards, 129 touchdowns and a 58.8 percent completion percentage.
Harbaugh joined the Oakland Raiders staff as the quarterbacks coach in 2002, then left after two years to take over the University of San Diego football program. With his dad on board as the running backs and assistant head coach, the Toreros posted a combined 29-6 record and won two Division I-AA championships during Harbaugh's three years at the helm.
That success led to a high-profile opportunity with Stanford University in the powerful Pac-10 Conference. Inheriting a team that finished 1-11 the year before his arrival, Harbaugh delivered a winning record in his third season, then steered the Cardinal to a 12-1 record and the No. 4 ranking in the final AP poll in 2010.
Harbaugh's meteoric rise through the coaching ranks was capped with his selection as the head coach of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers in January 2011. Again showing an ability to jolt a struggling team, Harbaugh installed a punishing defense and steadied the play of quarterback Alex Smith, propelling the 49ers to the NFC West division title before a close loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Conference championship game.
Shouldering bigger expectations in 2012, Harbaugh made a bold move by making second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick the starter in midseason. The decision paid off as the 49ers claimed their second straight NFC West crown and advanced to the Super Bowl, before coming up just short against a Baltimore Ravens team coached by brother John.
The 49ers earned a third consecutive trip to the NFC title game after the 2013 season, but the team stumbled to an 8-8 record during a 2014 campaign marked by injuries and Harbaugh's reported clashes with the front office. After the organization and coach mutually agreed to part ways in late December, Harbaugh announced he was returning to his alma mater by accepting the head coaching job at the University of Michigan.
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