RENTON, Wash. -- Doug Baldwin had made up his mind. He was leaving Stanford.
His ongoing conflicts with Jim Harbaugh, the Stanford head coach at the time, were more than he could take. Baldwin was headed to Vanderbilt for his junior year.
“I had already filled out the papers,” Baldwin said. “It was very close. Basically, it came down to what my mom told me to do.”
Baldwin's mother told him to finish what he started.
“She said I had to stick through it,” Baldwin said. “I eventually came to that realization, as well.”
As he's done six time times before, Baldwin will go against his old coach Sunday, but this time, it's for the NFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.
But Baldwin doesn't have the same view of Harbaugh now that he did five years ago.
“Jim and I did not have the best relationship while I was at Stanford,” Baldwin said. “I was immature, a young athlete who thought I knew everything. We clashed at times. I was dealing with injuries and that also prevented me from performing the way I wanted to on the field. So a lot of things went into it.
“But I actually thank him now for the adversity he helped me through, so to speak. He made me who I am today, a better person and a better football player. It's nothing against him personally. I just want to show him I'm as good as I think I am.”
Along with his mom, Baldwin said Richard Sherman, his Seahawks teammate now and his Stanford teammate at the time, also influenced his decision to stay at Stanford. Sherman had moved from receiver to cornerback after his sophomore year, partially because of conflicts with Harbaugh.
“It did have an impact on my decision, but more by example,” Baldwin said. “Sherm had gone through a similar thing just a year prior. He decided he wasn't going to allow any circumstances to allow him to keep from achieving his goal in life, which was to be successful in football. I took that to heart.”
Baldwin says the years have helped mellow his feelings about Harbaugh.
“We actually have a pretty decent relationship right now,'' Baldwin said. “He has texted me a few times.”
Harbaugh has praised Baldwin many times since Baldwin became a starter at Seattle, even saying he should have drafted him.
“I'm kicking myself for not doing that,” Harbaugh said in a Tacoma News Tribune story two years ago. “At the same time, I'm really, really happy for Doug.”
Baldwin says playing for Pete Carroll is a much different experience than playing for Harbaugh.
“Coach Harbaugh is more of a disciplinarian,” Baldwin said. “He likes to be in control of things and be hands-on with things. He wants to be involved with everything to make sure things are running smoothly, and that he has his say on stuff.
"Pete is the same in some ways, but they have different approaches. Harbaugh is more of a military-type style. It has to be precise and exactly the way he wants it. Pete kind of gives us leeway to do the things we want to do. It gives the players a sense of just having fun.”
Baldwin prefers Carroll's way of doing things.
“When we're in meetings, Pete has a tradition that he does, which I can't talk about here,” Baldwin said. “But it loosens the mood and breaks the ice. It sets the tone and allows everyone to be who they are and unleash your personality. We shoot basketballs in team meetings. It's a very free environment.”
That isn't Harbaugh's style, but you can't argue with his success. He is one win away from taking the 49ers to back-to-back Super Bowls.
Whatever the differences were between Baldwin and Harbaugh years ago, Baldwin says it served to motivate him, along with the fact that he wasn't drafted. His teammates sometimes refer to him as Angry Doug, because of the chip on his shoulder from not being drafted.
“I don't have a chip on my shoulder,'' Baldwin said. “I have a boulder on my shoulder. I'm one of these people that don't like it to be easy, no matter what it is. Whatever I'm going through, it has to be difficult.
“So any negative comments that come out about me or my teammates just adds fuel to the fire. It's not about proving others wrong. It's about proving myself right.”
Baldwin hopes he proved that to Harbaugh long ago.