Coaches often resort to unique lengths to motivate their players before a big game. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does, the coach can be hailed as a genius.
Count Jim Harbaugh as one coach who hopes his latest motivational ploy will make him look like the genius. The 49ers coach during the wild card weekend had placards made to hang above each locker, displaying the player’s high school photo and ranking according to scouting services at the time. (That’s Patrick Willis’ above.) From the L.A. Times:
The scene was like the day high school yearbooks are distributed, with players going from locker to locker, checking out what their teammates looked like as kids, comparing notes on who had a higher national player ranking, or who was ranked higher in his particular state.
The belief is that the tactic should help the players remember goals or aspirations they had in high school (ie, maybe winning the Super Bowl?), like how Donte Whinter interprets it:
“Coach really wants us to tap into what we wanted to be at that time,” said safety Donte Whitner, whose team plays at Atlanta on Sunday in the NFC championship game. “When you look at this picture, it’s like, ‘At this moment, what did I want to be?’ We all look at this and we understand what we wanted to be, and where we are now.”
Or, to motivate those who thought they should have been given a higher ranking than they were in high school, like Kendall Hunter:
“Always,” said the 5-foot-7 Hunter, reasoning his size led to scouts’ ignoring him. “A lot of people see you and they don’t think you can play at this level. It’s just another chip on your shoulder. It’s a reminder of where you were at, and where you were trying to be.”
Either way, there’s no wrong answer. A 49ers spokesman told the Times Harbaugh intended for the placards to be open to interpretation by the players.
Whether it will be sufficient enough inspiration to help get the 49ers past the Falcons on Sunday in the NFC Championship remains to be seen. But I’m sure each player is treating this attempt at motivation with the utmost seriousness and genuine reflection.
[Randy] Moss, 35, and guard Leonard Davis, 34, are the only players whose high school shots are in black and white.
“I don’t think they had color pictures back then,” 24-year-old cornerback Chris Culliver joked.
To remind Moss that he’s surrounded by much younger teammates, someone wrote “B.C. 1202″ on athletic tape and affixed it to the receiver’s bio.