SANTA CLARA — As competitive reunions go, it's clear 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh holds Sunday's game with Indianapolic Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in the same high regard as facing his brother John in the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh had nothing but good things to say about Luck Wednesday as he assessed the quarterback who put his Stanford program on the national map and ultimately wound up being the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in 2012.
Harbaugh's even more effusive about Luck now that he's played a year in the NFL. He maintained he's gotten even better.
"He's one of the top players in the league, which is no surprise," Harbaugh said. "He does so many things extremely well."
Harbaugh and his staff must now figure out a way to slow down a quarterback he once nurtured. How will he be able to confuse him?
"That's an interesting question and a good one," he said. "The answer isn't a real good one, because there's not a lot that confuses him or rattles him. There's very little that he doesn't handle well. He's just that type of player."
Harbaugh said he and Luck texted back and forth on occasion during his rookie season, but maintained he didn't offer any heavy counsel
"Mostly congratulations here and there," the coach said. "He's a guy who doesn't need a lot of advice."
Harbaugh said Luck as adapted quickly to the NFL and is impressed how well he has been able to handle punishment. The Colts QB was sacked 41 times in 2012 and has already been sacked seven times this season.
"There's never any sign that it does affect him," he said. "He can get hard and he'll pop right back up and pat somebody on the shoulder or the helmet, say `nice hit.' He's got the ability to extend plays, like he did with the winning touchdown against Oakland in the opener."
Harbaugh added that he believes that although he's primarily a pocket passer with Indianapolis, Luck could be a good read-option quarterback and that the team occasionally ran read-option plays at Stanford.
"Yeah, we did do it," he said. "I don't buy that he doesn't have the athleticism. He is a, for lack of a better term, a freakishly good athlete. He's a lot faster than you think. He's fast and he's stronger than he looks, then you see the evidence on the tape.
"Guys are hitting him pretty solid pretty hard, but he's able to just kind of flinch it off Roethlisberger-like, and throw with a lot of velocity, even though it's a throwing motion that's pretty smooth. The ball comes out faster than you think it does, and with a lot more velocity than you think."
Harbaugh reflected on a quarterback camp Luck attended in 2011 in which his former quarterback struck up a friendship with Colin Kaepernick, his current QB with the 49ers.
"When Andrew came back from the academy, I just asked him what quarterbacks stood out to him, who was good and who he got along with," Harbaugh said. :He lit up talking about Colin. When I met Colin, I could see why. I could see the similarities in the two."
Harbaugh said that he was flattered that Luck has given his former coach so much praise regarding his development and is subsequent success in the pros.
"That's very generous of him to say," he said. "But there's no question that through our association with Andrew, we all drew the long straw."