Never bashful about hyping his own players, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh called wide receiver Michael Crabtree, “the greatest [pass] catcher off all time,” after pulling in eight catches for 125 yards in the Niners win over Green Bay last Sunday at Frozen Lambeau.
“If my life depended on it, somebody had to catch a ball, I’d enlist Michael Crabtree to do it,” Harbaugh proclaimed.
While we can debate just who had the best hands ever (remember that guy who wore No. 80 for the red and gold?), it cannot be argued that Crabtree is one of, if not the best, yards after the catch receivers in football. It’s a skill that has been on display since one fateful night in college on November 1, 2008.
During Crabtree’s sophomore season at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders hosted the No. 1 ranked Texas Longhorns, led by current 49ers backup quarterback Colt McCoy. On the final offensive play of the game, with Texas Tech down 33-32 with eight seconds to play at the Longhorns 28-yard line, Crabtree caught a pass from quarterback Graham Harrell, shook a tackle, and tiptoed the sidelines for the game-winning score. You can check out the play at the link below:
The win not only catapulted Texas Tech into the national spotlight as well as give the Red Raiders their highest ranking ever, it also all but assured Michael Crabtree of a high pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Crabtree was a highly decorated college wideout, winning two Biletnikoff awards (nation’s best receiver), two Paul Warfield awards (nation’s best wide receiver) and was a two-time unanimous All-American. The 49ers drafted Crabtree with the 10th overall pick.
Despite a slow start to his career that involved a rookie contract dispute and franchise-record for longest rookie holdout in history compounded with three missed preseasons, Crabtree began to find his stride in 2011, where he recorded his first multi-touchdown game. When Colin Kaepernick took over for Alex Smith, the wideout became Kap’s favorite target. Crabtree finished the 2012 regular season with career highs in receiving yards (1,105) and touchdowns (9). In the playoffs, he continued to play well, hauling in 20 catches for 285 yards and 3 scores.
Overcoming the torn achilles tendon that forced him out of the first twelve weeks of this season, Crabtree has returned to the lineup and hasn’t missed a step. He was a big contributor in the Monday night win over Atlanta and obviously last Sunday’s win over the Packers. Crabtree’s presence has also opened things up for fellow receiving targets Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, relieving some of the pressure off Kaepernick, who struggled at times earlier this season without his go-to target.
As the 49ers prepare for Sunday morning’s rematch with the Carolina Panthers (kickoff 10 am PST), a lot of their success depends of the hands of Michael Crabtree. Keep checking in to 49ers360.com all week as we get you ready for the Divisional Round battle.