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Introspective Seattle WR Doug Baldwin relishes facing college coach in NFC title game

Doug Baldwin wanted to be done at Stanford.

The transfer papers were filled out.

Baldwin even had a destination in mind.

And then Baldwin's mom, Cindy, said no.

She wasn't about to let him give up a Stanford education even if it meant sticking through an uncomfortable situation playing football for Jim Harbaugh.

"I eventually came to the realization that I needed to stick through it as well," Baldwin said. "I was very close though."

Baldwin can look back on that time in college with reverence and perspective now that he's established in the NFL and about to face his former college coach in Sunday's NFC championship game between Seattle and San Francisco.

With Percy Harvin not playing after suffering a concussion last week against New Orleans, Baldwin's role and importance is even greater.

The fact a trip to the Super Bowl being at stake comes against Harbaugh and the 49ers, the coach he clashed with occasionally during their time at Stanford, could make the day even more special for Baldwin should Seattle win.

"It's not extra personal I just think that you get a little bit of extra motivation because you know the guy on the other side of the field," Baldwin said.

"It's nothing personal against him, going back on I thank him for the adversity he put me through so to speak because it made me who I am today. It made me a better person and a better football player.

"There's nothing against him, nothing personal, it's just a guy that coached me through college and you want to show him that I'm as good as I think I am."

Baldwin doesn't carry a chip, but a "boulder" on his shoulder. He thrives off negativity. He's picked up the nickname "Angry Doug Baldwin," and embraces the moniker.

And leading into the NFC title game Baldwin opened up this week about his time at Stanford. Baldwin said the animosity he held toward Harbaugh in college is now gone. He said they text on occasion and called their relationship now, "decent."

That wasn't the case at Stanford when Baldwin was ready to leave, with Vanderbilt a possible destination, before sticking it out.

He used the example of teammate Richard Sherman, also a teammate in Seattle, about sticking through his difficulties at Stanford. Sherman considered leaving Stanford as well, but also remained with the Cardinal.

"He decided that he wasn't going to allow any circumstance to keep him from achieving his goal and what he wanted to do in life, which was obviously be successful at football," Baldwin said.

"I kind of took that to heart as well, but everyone deals with things differently so I didn't know if my path was going to be as similar as his, but eventually it did have some affect or impact on my decision."

Baldwin's role could be critical on Sunday. With Harvin out, Baldwin will be returning kickoffs and likely playing more snaps as an outside receiver than in the slot.

He's made a point of having big games against Harbaugh and the 49ers. Baldwin has 16 receptions and four touchdowns against the 49ers.

He also has a knack for making critical catches in important situations. Baldwin's third down reception along the sideline last week against New Orleans came one play before Marshawn Lynch's clinching 31-yard touchdown run in Seattle's 23-15 victory.

"That was a huge ball he caught that kind of helped us win. So we're very, very confident," fellow receiver Golden Tate said.

"We hear it all the time that we're not worth squat, but at the end of the day, we make the plays that we need to make to help us win and we're sitting 14-3 right now, playing in the NFC Championship. You can't do that without us or the tight ends or the running backs."

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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