Harbaugh and Smith: A story of birth and re-birth

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Harbaugh and Smith: A story of birth and re-birth

Alex Smith had known Jim Harbaugh for only four months. He was about the last person he expected to see on May 11.Even though NFL rules limited the amount of contact team employees could have with players during the lockout, Harbaugh was there for Smith on the biggest day of his life.Smith's wife, Elizabeth, had given birth to the couple's first child, a boy they named Hudson. And Harbaugh was among the first visitors at the hospital that day."I was still in the nursery," Smith recalled this week. "He (Hudson) was just taken to get his bath. You know how they have those windows there? I was still there, and I look up and there he was."There he was.Jim Harbaugh, the man who had never before coached Alex Smith.RELATED: Har-Bowl 2011 -- full coverage

Jim Harbaugh, the man who would place his trust in Smith when previous coaches seemingly had been quick to lose confidence in the quarterback.On Thanksgiving night, the nation will pay rapt attention to Harbaugh and his brother, John, who is head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. There is an unmistakable family theme intertwined with the game.And that family connection is strong with Smith and his family, too.There is plenty for which Smith to be thankful. Professionally, it all began when the 49ers hired a new coach who met Smith, began studying his past performances with an open mind and developed a bond with him.Smith had already determined the 49ers were his best fit, though he remained unsigned. In late April a district court judge lifted the NFL lockout for a day before a higher court ruled it back in effect.During the brief window Smith could be at the 49ers office, he spent the entire day there, meeting with coaches and gathering material about the new offensive system.Smith would disseminate the information to his offensive teammates in a highly productive series of two weeks at San Jose State that were dubbed "Camp Alex."While preparing to be a first-time father, Smith diligently studied the playbook and watched reams of game video to familiarize himself with the 49ers offense to the point where he could teach it to his teammates.But for a few days in May, football was the furthest thing from his mind.Elizabeth was scheduled for an induced labor. But it wasn't until the next day that she gave birth."She'd gotten induced the day before and everybody knew she was getting induced the day before, so I think he thought he was coming the day after," Smith said of Harbaugh. "But he got there, literally, an hour after the birth."In advance, the 49ers requested permission from the league office for Harbaugh to visit the Smith Family to ensure he was in compliance with NFL rules during the lockout. Because it was viewed purely as a social visit, the league approved.Alex Smith said he was not expecting Harbaugh to visit."We'd just came out of the delivery room. She and I went into the nursery and she'd just gone back to the room," Smith said. "Coach Harbaugh had already been down there in the room and given her flowers."She was in the room with her parents and I stayed with him (Hudson). And she told him I was up one story in the nursery, and that's when I saw him."Smith is having his best season, as the surprising 49ers enter Thursday's game against the Ravens with a 9-1 record. Smith completed 62.4 percent of his attempts with 13 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 93.9 in the first nine games.Harbaugh risked fines from the NFL during the lockout when he repeatedly spoke glowingly of Smith, sending clear messages to Smith through the media at a time when he was not allow to speak to him about football.And Harbaugh made another strong impression that day at the hospital.The coach-quarterback relationship is one in which there must be mutual trust and confidence. Look no further for the reason Alex Smith's career has experienced a re-birth.

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

C.J. BEATHARD
Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa
Height: 6-2
Weight: 219
Selection: Third round, No. 104 overall

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers traded back into the end of the third round to select a quarterback to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers' roster.

General manager John Lynch's fourth trade of the draft netted the team the grandson of legendary NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard. His grandson, C.J., joins the 49ers after a four-year career at Iowa. Beathard completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Beathard was not generally expected to be chosen within the first two days of the draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected, falling behind Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb.

"They won't regret it," Beathard said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

The 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the No. 104 pick, and called the 49ers to see if they were interested in a trade. After some consideration, the 49ers decided to move up from No. 109 while also giving the Vikings a seventh-round pick at No. 219.

"Might he have been there at 109? That’s what we had to weigh," 49ers John Lynch said. "But at the end of the day, we felt like it was worth it to be able to go to bed knowing that we had a player that we liked and want the opportunity develop at the quarterback position."

And that's what coach Kyle Shanahan plans on doing. He said Beathard is not coming to the team this season to compete with Hoyer for the starting job.

"We’re bringing him in here to develop him and give him a chance, but just like any other position, everyone competes," Shanahan said. "Brian is our starting quarterback and, right now, Matt Barkley is our second. And I look at him to come in and be our third with us only having three on the roster.

"By no means did we come into this draft thinking we’re going to get a guy to compete with Brian."

Shanahan said Beathard and Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman were the two quarterbacks in the draft who ran offenses in college most similar to the offense he will install with the 49ers.

"One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play," Shanahan said. "It helps being at Iowa and watching the system he’s in. It’s easier to see to watch him over the years. He’s a three-year starter. He’s led his team to a bunch of wins, especially in 2015 when they had a better team and he played unbelievable."

As a junior at Iowa, Beathard completed 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 2,809 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

"He’s a leader. He’s tough. He processes very well," Shanahan said. "He's extremely accurate and he lives and dies football."

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

AHKELLO WITHERSPOON
Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 229 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.