Jim Harbaugh recruited many players out of high school while he was a college coach at both University of San Diego and Stanford University. While it was well-known that Eric Reid chose LSU over Stanford, Harbaugh lost another recruiting battle which involved a player on the Carolina Panthers.
The 49ers head coach, then-Stanford head coach admitted his was self-assured about his recruiting process.
"I thought [the recruiting] went really well," Harbaugh said in November. "[I] sat in the home visit in the living room there in Cincinnati with the Kuechlys and felt confident and sure that Luke would be a Stanford man. [I] walked out of the living room that night feeling pretty darn good about it and got the tragic news the following week that he was going to Boston College.”
After choosing Boston College, Kuechly went on to become a Dick Butkus Award winner in 2011 and an All-American in his three seasons with the University. He declared for the NFL Draft where he was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Kuechly said he was "close" to attending Stanford, but the distance between the Midwest and West Coast was too much.
"I was real close when I went out there," Kuechly said in a conference call. "Everything was great, but it felt so far away. [People] always say, ‘It’s just a plane flight.’ But it’s a long plane flight, and I realized my parents wouldn’t be able to get to that many games. On the East Coast at [Boston College], they were able to get to a lot of the ACC games in the Carolinas. The distance more than anything was the deal with that.”
Both Harbaugh and Kuechly met each other at the 2012 NFL scouting combine and laughed it off together. Harbaugh himself was initially thinking about "what went wrong" as to why he didn't choose Stanford.
Kuechly was named the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and became an AP First-Team All-Pro LB in 2013. He and NaVorro Bowman were named the two first-team All-Pro inside linebackers.