Harbaugh cherishes Ditka's tutelage

Jim Harbaugh is just the latest of Mike Ditka's former players who have climbed the ladder to be head coach. AP Photo/Fred Jewell

INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh smiled at the thought of it.

But perhaps there's actual substance to the fact that five Bears who played for former coach Mike Ditka -- Jeff Fisher, Leslie Frazier, Mike Singletary, Ron Rivera and now Harbaugh -- have gone on to become head coaches in the NFL.

"I know for me personally, I got great training under Mike Ditka, and I lean on a lot of his teachings; just the competitive nature with how he structured our team and our organization," said Harbaugh, who was hired last month as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. "He was a great role model. I was lucky to be able to play for him and use a lot of the things he taught me."

Harbaugh hopes Ditka's tutelage combined with experience as an assistant on the college and professional levels, and successful stints as head coach at the University of San Diego and most recently Stanford, help in his transition into a top spot in the NFL.

A first-round pick of the Bears in 1987, Harbaugh played seven seasons with the club (1987-1993), and passed for a career-best 3,121 yards in 1991. Harbaugh spent the majority of his 15-year career with the Bears, but also played for the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers and Carolina Panthers.

Harbaugh achieved most of his success in Indianapolis -- which inducted him into its Ring of Honor in 2005. He posted career highs in completion percentage and touchdowns during his time with the Colts, in addition to earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl after leading Indianapolis to the 1995 AFC Championship. Harbaugh was also named Comeback Player of the Year, and AFC Player of the Year.

Harbaugh's trip to the NFL Combine marks his first visit to Lucas Oil Stadium, while unleashing a flood of memories about his time with the Colts.

"I have gone back a little bit; there's been a bit of a memory lane because those are signature moments of my life," Harbaugh said. "I had a child that was born here, great relationships, and winning that we had in Indianapolis. So it was a trip down memory lane as I was walking in."