Jim Harbaugh never forgets the ones that got away. In fact, he's spent the last two years at the scouting combine asking the NFL prospects whom he recruited at Stanford why they decided to go elsewhere, a list that includes Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III and Carolina inside linebacker Luke Kuechly
"I thought it went really well," Harbaugh recalled when the 49ers played the Panthers in November. "Sat in the home visit in the living room there in Cincinnati with the Kuechly's and felt confident and sure that Luke would be a Stanford man. And walked out of the living room that night feeling pretty darn good about it and got the tragic news the following week that he was going to Boston College."
Kuechly today was asked what prompted that "tragedy" in Harbaugh's life. His answer: distance.
"It felt so far away," said Kuechly, who is from Cincinnati. "They said, 'It's a plane flight, it's a plane flight.' But it's a long plane flight. And I kind of realized that my parents wouldn't be able to get to that many games. On the East coast, they were able to get to a lot of the ACC games."
How did Harbaugh react? "Obviously, he was bummed out a little bit," the Panthers linebacker said. "But he was very cool about it, wished me the best of luck, wished me well in everything I did. And when I got to the combine, obviously he saw me and we talked a little bit. It was the first time I'd seen him since the whole recruiting thing. So he was joking around with me a little bit."
Keuchly led all tacklers with 11 stops during the teams' earlier meeting, a 10-9 win for Carolina. He also joined the 49ers' NaVorro Bowman on the first-team All-Pro list, replacing Willis on that list. Willis had been a first-team All pro the last two years.
"They've got a great group out there - you know, Willis and Bowman have been studs for a long time," Kuechly said. "They work extremely hard just like we do."
-- Matt Barrows