SANTA CLARA – A cot and a computer.
That's what was waiting for Jim Harbaugh after he accepted a spot on the Raiders' coaching staff in 2002. After 15 seasons as an NFL quarterback, countless accolades and enough fat paychecks to make a man contemplate waking up at 10 a.m. the rest of his life, Harbaugh sought a position at the bottom of the NFL coaching chart – offensive quality control. The job description: terrible hours, zero recognition and all the grunt work you can handle. His father, Jack, said he's never been more proud.
"They gave him a room in the bowels of the building with no windows, a cot and a computer," Jack Harbaugh said. "He asked for no quarter. He just jumped right in. He never looked for the easy road. He never said, 'I'm Jim Harbaugh. I played 15 years in the NFL.' He just went out and coached." With that story in mind, it's not surprising who Jim Harbaugh hired as offensive quality control coach with the 49ers.
Like Harbaugh, Bobby Engram had a long and productive playing career. He spent 14 seasons as a wide receiver, catching 650 passes for 35 touchdowns for three teams. And like Harbaugh, he headed to the basement when his playing career was over. Engram's day begins at 6 a.m. He might leave the team facility at 9 p.m., or he might spend the night on a cot. On a good day, he'll get a workout in. Engram's tasks range from assisting receivers coach John Morton in evaluating the 49ers' current group to helping general manager Trent Baalke break down draft prospects. But mostly he's responsible for drawing up plays for Harbaugh's never-ending playbook.
How many plays does he diagram in a day, maybe 30? "More like 300," Engram said with a smile. "And they might slide some food under the door some time during the day." To find the common thread between Jim Harbaugh and Engram, you need to look at the men who raised them.
Jack Harbaugh is best known as the coach at Western Kentucky from 1989 to 2002. The Hilltoppers won the NCAA Division I-AA championship in his final season. His career began in high school in the early 1960s. Harbaugh and his family moved from town to town and state to state as he moved up the coaching ranks. Jim lived in 12 towns before he graduated high school. He never complained. In fact, Jim said he knew he wanted to follow his father into coaching since he was 5 years old. "I mimicked him, watched practice. I could hot-splice a 16-millimeter tape when I was 7," Harbaugh said. "His tape would break, and he'd hand me the can of film and tell me to splice it back together."
Engram's father, Simon Engram Jr., began as a mail carrier in Camden, S.C., in 1970. For years, he was the only black letter carrier – he delivered the mail on a bicycle – in the region. He eventually worked his way up to a postmaster's position in a town 90 minutes away, which meant he had to wake up each morning at 4:30. "Our dad was like that," said Bobby's sister, Devona. "You're not always going to start at the top. You've got to work your way up the ranks." Simon Engram was killed in 1991 when the car he was driving was struck by a train at a railroad crossing. Bobby was a freshman at Penn State at the time.
Devona said that when she looks at Bobby Engram, she sees their father – not only in Bobby's workmanlike approach to life but in his patience with others. Simon Engram also was a longtime Little League baseball coach, a father figure to just about every boy who grew up in that corner of South Carolina. As early as age 5, Bobby would trail his dad around the dugout and diamond. Between innings, he'd warm up the pitcher – who was at least twice his age – while the catcher put on his gear.
"My dad was responsible for a lot of young men down there," Bobby Engram said. "He was a phenomenal coach and communicator. And I talk to guys who, to this day, remember some of the things he taught us when we were just boys." Engram acknowledges he picked up both his father's coaching gene and his creed that the best place to start a career is at the bottom. His current position with the 49ers also has become a valuable learning experience, especially for someone who wants to become a head coach.
As a player, Engram paid close attention during team meetings, particularly toward the end of his career when he knew he wanted to get into coaching. But he said he has been surprised by the things he didn't know. "You really get into the nuts and bolts of the offense in terms of protections from an offensive-line standpoint and a running backs standpoint," Engram said. "I knew protections as far as what I needed to know as a receiver, but it wasn't something I paid close attention to."
One of the few positives to come from the NFL's ongoing lockout, Harbaugh said, is that it has given him extra time to get to know his new staff. And in Engram, he sees a familiar personality. "I think Bobby and I have a real fierce pride about our parents, our fathers," he said. "I think we both share that kind of need to make our dad proud of us, now and always."
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/04/23/3573314/new-49ers-assistant-follows-in.html#ixzz1Pk74HFbs