Giddy Harbaugh anxious to get practice started

Jim Harbaugh has seen success after entering at the ground level of a Palo Alto football reclamation project before.

The 43-year-old Stanford football coach was a high school quarterback in 1980 when his family moved to the Peninsula, allowing Jim’s dad, Jack, to take a job as the Cardinal’s defensive coordinator. Jim Harbaugh enrolled at Palo Alto High School and immediately stepped in under center for the struggling Vikings.

“We were 1-9 the year before I got there and then 9-1 the next season,” said Harbaugh, who went on to play at Michigan and in the NFL for 15 years. “We had a lot of success and a lot of fun.”

Harbaugh’s newest project will be reviving a Cardinal program that scuffled to a 1-11 season in 2006, overshadowing the pomp and circumstance surrounding the newly remodeled Stanford Stadium. But while addressing the media Wednesday during a luncheon at Tres Agaves restaurant, Harbaugh sounded downright giddy to get going.

“I’m having football dreams at night and I wake up and think about football all day,” said Harbaugh, who went 29-6 in three years as coach of Division I-AA San Diego. “I just can’t wait [to get started].”

His dreams will become reality when practice begins Monday.

Harbaugh was joined at the event by Cal coach Jeff Tedford, San Jose State coach Dick Tomey and players from all three schools. And while Harbaugh must build from the bottom, Tedford and Tomey will be looking continue the momentum created from recent success.

Cal went 10-3 in 2006 and beat Texas A&M 45-10 in the Holiday Bowl, as the Bears reached a bowl game for the fourth straight season for the first time in school history. Offensive leaders such as quarterback Nate Longshore and wide receiver DeSean Jackson are back and Tedford — entering his sixth season — said the overall team speed is as impressive as it’s been since he arrived at the school.

“There’s no question these guys have worked their tails off and are extremely dedicated,” Tedford said. “The team chemistry is great and they sense that. They’re really excited to get going.”

Meanwhile, San Jose State was 9-4 and beat New Mexico 20-12 in the inaugural New Mexico Bowl, breaking a 16-year bowl drought. First-team All-America cornerback Dwight Lowery is back for his senior season, as is linebacker Matt Castelo (the second-leading tacklerin the nation in 2006) and quarterback Adam Tafralis of Mills High School in Millbrae.

“The feeling of winning has been great motivation,” Castelo said. “The guys are excited and we had a really big turnout in the weight room his summer. Guys are willing to put in that time so we can have that feeling again.”

melliser@examiner.com

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