When Jim Harbaugh walked out onto the field in Charlotte on Sunday, he did so with a heavy heart.
The 49ers coach learned that morning that his grandfather, Joe Cipiti, had died in Ohio. Cipiti was 98.
“It was sad, and I kind of felt that sadness all day,” said Harbaugh, who hosted Cipiti many times at San Francisco’s Santa Clara-based facility and shared the Super Bowl stage with him. “But I know he’s got a new audience now to tell his stories to. He is an amazing storyteller. He’s a poet of life and a man that was all about family.
“He lived such a great life, did so many things, went to so many places. He always showed up and just did it. So, I don’t know if he’s up there shooting craps, or he’s playing golf, or he’s at the track watching the trotters.”
Harbaugh said he shared the news with players after their impressive 23-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
“I told them what they meant to ‘Grandpa Joe,’” Harbaugh said, “and they all remembered him and felt great. Some of my Stanford players, because he was always around our team, texted their condolences.
“He was watching the Green Bay game a week ago, and he took credit for
Harbaugh, who doesn’t anticipate being able to attend Friday’s services, had asked FOX commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to mention Cipiti’s impact on the Harbaugh family during Sunday’s broadcast. The coach watched the TV version of the game when he got home that night and said Buck and Aikman “did a wonderful job.”
“You could hear it in their voice that they understood family and they just had a great understanding of what our grandpa meant to us,” he said. “So I appreciate those guys for that.
“Grandpa Joe is with me and I’m with him and he knows that.”