San Francisco 49ers

Ex-49ers TE Delanie Walker: Jim Harbaugh once practiced in full pads with team

We all know that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh can be a little odd at times.

It’s not every day a head coach strips down to khakis to play in the heat, as we’ve seen from recent pictures of a shirtless Harbaugh running around the field with Alabama campers earlier this month.

Harbaugh’s move was hardly shocking to Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker, who played for Harbaugh in San Francisco.

“It didn’t surprise me one bit,” Walker said, laughing. “Harbaugh doesn’t surprise anyone. He does whatever he feels like doing. Truthfully, I think Harbaugh still thinks he’s a player, not a coach.”

Walker recalled a story of Harbaugh solving a shortage of 49ers quarterbacks by jumping into action himself. With his depth chart shortened by injuries, the head coach rekindled his glory days.

Harbaugh, who made 140 career starts in his 14-year NFL career from 1987 to 2000, dressed in a full 49ers uniform and practiced with the team.

“Pads, helmets, everything on,” Walker told The Tennessean. “He had the whole uniform on. We came out and said, ‘Who is that dude out there?’ And it was Jim Harbaugh. He had some old high top cleats on.”

Walker played the 2011 and 2012 seasons under Harbaugh in San Francisco, the coach’s first two years in the Bay Area.

Harbaugh’s last year as a professional player came in 2000 when he finished his career in San Diego.

According to Walker, though, a decade-plus out of the pads hardly changed Harbaugh.

“Truthfully, I think Harbaugh still thinks he’s a player, not a coach,” Walker said, adding that the old coach’s quarterback skills were “pretty good,” but he “just couldn’t throw the deep, deep pass.”

As for how Harbaugh will fare as Michigan head coach, Walker explained that while he might be a bit “crazy,” Harbaugh makes it work.

“I think he is going to be a great (at Michigan),” Walker said. “People buy into his philosophy. Every team he has ever been on has been good, right? So you tell me what he is going to do. Young kids love to have a coach who is crazy.”

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