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.