Anytime a 49ers player stands at his locker this week, he comes face-to-face with his former self. Posted above every player's locker is a placard with their high school or junior college picture and some of their recruiting ranking information. Asked about the placards today, head coach Jim Harbaugh said he thought it would be a "fun thing" after having a conversation with several players over their experiences with high school recruitment.
Harbaugh, though, has tapped into his creative side before to motivate players. Last year he handed out blue-collared work shirts with players' first names on them to foster a blue-collar work ethic (the idea was borrowed from his brother John, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens). The 49ers are heading into an NFC Championship Game in which they are favored over the Atlanta Falcons despite having to go on the road.
"I think there's a message behind it," said defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois. "To show you how hard you grinded from high school to the NFL. And he just wants you to grind the same way you did in high school to now."
Harbaugh was quixotic when asked about the meaning behind the pictures, saying: "I think just as far as what it means, it means something different to the beholder that's looking at it. To me as I looked through every single picture of every single guy, I was moved by the eyes. It's always in the eyes. They're cheerful and undefeated. And it was nice to put those up."
Beyond that, players are getting a kick out of seeing what their teammates looked like in their late formative years. A favorite is the picture of 35-year-old receiver Randy Moss, which looks like more like something you'd find in a yearbook than on a recruiting website. Moss appears to be wearing a suit jacket and -- as several players pointed out with glee -- it's a black and white photograph. Above it, somebody wrote on a piece of athletic tape: "B.C. 1202."
"That's saying some years," Jean Francois said.