SANTA CLARA One of the funnier moments of the Mike Singletary era yes, the topic would make a fantastic Top 10 list came on the first day of the 2009 draft.
There were questions about the character of the 49ers' first-round pick, Michael Crabtree, with the word "diva" practically attached to his name. At least two teams with high picks couldn't get the wide receiver out of their building fast enough when he made a predraft visit.
After spending several minutes defending Crabtree from the diva allegations, Singletary ended the news conference by recalling a conversation he'd had with the young man.
"I said, 'What is your hobby? What is one of your hobbies?' " Singletary said. "And he said, 'I can sit in front of a computer and really get into fashion. You're never going to see me wear the same thing twice. I'm really into fashion.' "
"And I'm looking at him. So I said, 'Wait a minute, hold on. Fashion?' " Singletary continued. " 'Wait a minute now. How can this what do you mean, fashion?' He kind of broke it down a little bit. But he's really into clothes."
Needless to say, Crabtree's diva reputation didn't go away that day. And it grew when Crabtree and his agent engaged in a protracted contract dispute four months later, one that cost him 71 days of his rookie season.
He was hurt each of the two following summers, preventing him from taking part in the preseason. Crabtree wasn't notably big, he wasn't overly fast, he wasn't much of a leaper, and he seemed injury-prone.
So why was he worthy of the No. 10 overall pick?
Crabtree has answered that question this season by distinguishing himself in a category toughness that ought to remove the diva label for good.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has received plenty of praise for bouncing back from a third-quarter interception in New England with a touchdown pass that split two defenders.
Crabtree shined, too.
With defensive backs closing in on either side, Crabtree stretched out, exposed his body and came down with the ball.
"A gutsy catch right between the two safeties," NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth, a former NFL receiver, said after the play.
Coach Jim Harbaugh made waves in the offseason by saying Crabtree has the best hands he has ever seen. While Crabtree's hands are very good, he has stood out this season for two other reasons.
One is the quick cuts he makes often to the inside of the defender that consistently have allowed him to gain yards after the catch.
It's something offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Crabtree has worked especially hard on this season by weaving in and out of cones before every practice. That work was evident Sunday when, on the 49ers' go-ahead touchdown, he took a short pass from Kaepernick, juked his defender and went down the sideline for a 38-yard touchdown.
Crabtree's second strength has been his un-diva-like ability to break tackles. He's looked like Mike Ditka or Mark Bavaro or Anquan Boldin at times this season when he's caught passes well short of the first-down marker and run through defenders to give the 49ers a fresh set of downs.
All of which makes the Sunday matchup between Crabtree and the Seattle Seahawks' physical defense one of the most intriguing of the game.
Seattle's cornerbacks are known for their size Richard Sherman, for example, is 6-foot-3 and for playing press coverage and putting their hands all over receivers. Sherman is appealing a four-game suspension today, but a resolution isn't expected immediately and he should be able to play Sunday.
The 49ers like that matchup. In fact, they like Crabtree in any situation this year.
"I think he's elevated his game," Roman said. "You can call it toughness. Crab's a football player, he's a tough guy. The beauty of it is that he doesn't go around banging his chest. He just gets it done, and that's what we're looking for."