“I’m thankful for getting a chance to coach Jim Harbaugh.” Nebraska head coach Mike Riley told me at Big Ten Media Days. In the 1999 and 2000 seasons, Riley was the coach of the San Diego Chargers, and Jim Harbaugh was his quarterback.
Harbaugh was signed to mentor Ryan Leaf, who was the second overall pick of the 1998 draft (Peyton Manning went first). Things changed in a flash when Leaf injured his shoulder on the very first day of camp after diving on a football, tearing his labrum, missing the entire season. Jim Harbaugh became the Chargers starting quarterback.
“Through the will of Jim Harbaugh and Junior Seau, we went 8-8, and were one missed field goal away from the playoffs. Because of the will of those two guys.” Riley said.
On the season, Harbaugh played in 14 games and threw for 2,761 yards and 10 touchdowns. Riley ended with more kudos, saying “I admire Jim totally, he would work out with the rookies, he would go the extra mile, he was diligent in every way, I enjoyed being around him.”