When Joe Montana's youngest son was being recruited by Stanford, the 49ers' legendary quarterback came across a few calls from Jim Harbaugh's playbook.
It was like hearing his native tongue again. The terminology, the formations, the philosophy -- it was the language he spoke so fluently with Bill Walsh.
"Some of those plays were word for word exactly what I ran," Montana said Tuesday.
Duplicating how Montana and Co. ran those plays will be the hard part as Harbaugh resurrects the West Coast offense in San Francisco. And Montana, now 55, urged patience as the 49ers make the transition, noting that the lockout impeded the learning curve.
For now he's just happy to have those familiar X's and O's back in the Bay Area again. His son, Nick, the onetime De La Salle JV quarterback, ultimately chose to attend Washington over Stanford. But the three-time Super Bowl MVP said 49ers passers will love the West Coast offense if it's anything like the version he orchestrated with Walsh.
"Once the quarterbacks figure out that system, what their role really is, big plays happen," Montana said. "You don't have to try to make them happen. You just have to keep moving the ball and keep the completions coming. I think you'll see a difference as the year goes on."
Montana spoke during an appearance at the San Francisco Food Bank, where he helped kick off Kraft Foods' "Huddle to Fight Hunger" campaign. The eight-time Pro Bowl selection showed
Montana said he had seen neither of the 49ers' exhibition games this year and was in no position to evaluate incumbent starter Alex Smith or second-round pick Colin Kaepernick. In theory, though, he said he opposes the idea of rushing a rookie like Kaepernick into the forefront.
"Why do you want to start him? What he did in college doesn't always transfer," said Montana, who started only once as a 23-year-old rookie in 1979. "He may be able to make it, I don't know. But you're not going to start him over somebody who's played."
Montana played for the 49ers from 1979-92, guiding the 49ers to four of their five championships. He still holds the NFL postseason record for touchdown passes (45). In four Super Bowl appearances, Montana threw for 1,142 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 127.8.
Aside from the graying hair, Montana still looked spry enough Tuesday to suit up. He said he has fully recovered from an accident sustained while driving what he called "a little race car" on his Calistoga ranch in June. (The spill kept him from appearing before the Santa Clara City Council to discuss a proposed real estate project.)
Montana explained that he was moving the vehicle so that his kids could use it when his foot got stuck between the gas pedal and the brake pedal. When he sped around a curve, he found himself barreling toward a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
"It was either hit the 4x4 or try to swerve and miss," he said. "I swerved and missed -- and hit the tree."
Montana admitted he blew it by not wearing his seat belt.
"I fractured the head of my fibula. I had a few stitches in my head. I separated my collarbone," he said. "But other than that I was fine."
Not watching 49ers games this preseason has spared him from seeing the violence-marred game against the Raiders on Saturday at Candlestick Park. Two fans were shot, one was severely beaten and a dozen were arrested on a night of constant brawls.
"It's just ridiculous, a sad day," Montana said, adding that he finds it surreal that stadium officials will have to consider drastic security crackdowns on game days. "Friends or someone else needs to know what's going on with these people and intervene before it gets to that point."
Montana was much happier to discuss his second year of working with a charity effort that aims to donate 25 million meals this year. He encouraged fans to "like" the Kraft Fight Hunger page on Facebook. With each click, Kraft will donate one meal to a Feeding America food bank such as the one in San Francisco.
(Montana had to commission his kids to hit the "like" button for him. "I don't have enough going on in my life to be on Facebook," he joked.)
The campaign culminates with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on New Year's Eve. This year's matchup will feature Army against a team from the Pac-12.
Montana said he got involved with the anti-hunger campaign because it is something that affects his own community. He noted that one in six Americans don't know where they will get their next meal.
"That's pretty astounding when you look at the number," he said. "So I'm just trying to give back to the community. I think you always have to do that somewhere along the line because I was fortunate to have a great career here.
"Whenever you find great things like this that give you a chance to help, you have to jump."