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News Article | Nov 08, 2013 | by Eric Wright

Full Circle in San Francisco



This is a situation that I've wanted to be in my whole life, playing for my hometown team. It just feels like the timing is right. Going into Year 7 of my career, being in a position where I understand what that means and also being on a winning team that has the opportunity to go very far, it's a beautiful situation.

I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity in front of me. I'm just looking forward to putting that uniform on and contributing to an already good team.

My family is just so excited for me. My parents especially know that this is what I've wanted since I was a little boy. I told them back in elementary school that when I grew up I wanted to play professional football for the 49ers.

They've been great parents and guided me in the right direction my whole life to this point. So for them to see this come to fruition, it's special. They're excited, happy and proud.

It means a lot to know that this is the first season and the first game that I'll be playing as a father and I get to play it for my home team. It's just a credit to how much things in life change. I've been playing football for so long and this year I'm playing as a father and I feel like a completely different person.

I think it's kind of cool that my daughter Reagan gets to see me play first as a 49er. Hopefully while I'm still with the team she gets old enough to kind of understand the game and the magnitude of her father playing for the team he's playing for, how much that means to me and what it means to our family.

We've got some stuff brewing for her to wear on Sunday. We're not necessarily going to break out the big time apparel until later, but we've got some 49ers stuff for her to wear on gameday.

I'm not giving out too many tickets. I have a rotation as far as that goes. I'm always going to have my immediate family there. My wife, my mom, my dad, my stepparents and then I'll just have a few tickets for each game that I'll rotate between friends and family members.

People think those tickets are free, but they're not. They're not even close to being free, especially for the 49ers, a team that went to the Super Bowl, in their last year at Candlestick. Those tickets are not cheap at all. So I try to keep that number as low as possible because I do have to pay for those tickets and they're expensive. But I think my family and friends understand that I do appreciate them wanting to come and support.

EARNING A SPOT

The situation in general has been really humbling from the start. I've never experienced opening day of a season standing on the sidelines. I've never experienced multiple games coming and going where I was just watching. It was definitely something that made me appreciate the positions that I've been in before. I think it made me a stronger person, just because it's just another adverse situation that I had to deal with in life and I'm at the point where I'm overcoming that now.

I've been activated off the reserve list, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'll be active for the game. So I just look at every day, every practice, every meeting as an opportunity to get better and I'm positioning myself to help out. That's my focus. I've been working every day to make sure I'll be able to contribute any way I can. I'm definitely feeling good physically and mentally, and I'll just be waiting for the opportunity to help out when called upon.

It's a different situation, one that I haven't been in before. But I have always earned every spot that I've had as a starter and playing on other teams anyway. So my work hasn't changed. I always worked hard and was able to earn that position and the playing time. So if you look at it that way, whatever had happened for this season and whatever spot I had been called upon to play I would've had to put in the work and the time to earn it. It's just all about continuing to get better, learning the system and being able to be an asset to the team.

You always want to go out there and be that guy for your team and contribute to your team in any way you can. I believe that's universal no matter what the circumstances are. But I guess because this is such a great opportunity for me, that makes me hold the situation with that much more reverence.

I just have the utmost respect for the ownership and front office of this team. Obviously they saw something in me and have really given me a great opportunity. I'm extremely grateful for that. I can't say that enough. It means a lot to me to have that chance and that support.

It's obvious that they've built a good team and a competitive team, but to add somebody like myself who is from the Bay Area, who has had this dream of playing for this team and is in his seventh year in the league — to give that guy an opportunity is something huge in my opinion. I appreciate it more than I can say.

PROVIDING AN EXAMPLE

As that day gets closer, I try to imagine what it's going to be like. I think it's going to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. I'm literally going to be playing a game in my backyard. I grew up blocks away from Candlestick.

I just think about when I used to go to a park with my friends when I was a kid and us playing a pickup game of football. You have that playground feeling in your mind.

Then there's the pride that comes with wearing that red and gold and playing for such a prestigious organization, a storied franchise. Then I think about how inspiring it is and can be to the youth of this area, not only in my neighborhood, but in San Francisco and young kids just knowing that if you can dream something, if you put your mind to it, you can work towards that goal and actually achieve it.

It all came full circle for me last weekend during our bye week. I knew my activation was coming up and on Sunday I went to the playoff game for the San Francisco Seahawks, my old Pop Warner team. I spoke to the kids before their games and watched them play

That team birthed me from a football standpoint and I had great role models there in the coaches. They really helped me get to where I am now. So I took the opportunity to go to the game and see some old faces. They gave me a chance to talk to the youth and provide a living testament to what they could very well be dreaming about.

I think it definitely got through to some of them. I wanted to keep it short and just touch on a few points because they were getting ready to play a game and I wanted them to focus on winning that game. But it definitely hit home for some people and I think it was good for them to see somebody who basically came from the same situation that they come from.

My goal was just for them to take from it that anything you put your mind to, you can do it. We're all cut from different backgrounds and come from different neighborhoods. But in a general sense, there are going to be a bunch of different obstacles in front of you in life.

You basically have to choose at an early age what you want to do and who you want to be. That's not saying specifically that you have to choose if you want to be a football player. But you have to choose if you want to be great and if you want to be successful. You have to choose what kind of life you want for yourself, because that's what going to keep you doing the right things and making the right decisions.

There are so many distractions out there, especially for this generation, and I feel bad for them to a certain extent because it wasn't like that when I was growing up. Not at this level. There are so many different things that can send these guys down the wrong path. It's easy to feel hopeless and think there is nothing that you can do to escape these obstacles. So I just wanted to let them know that there's definitely hope. That was my main message, that there is hope for your dreams.

I think about those young kids a lot. It's always on my mind, because I remember being in fifth grade and telling my teacher that I was going to be a professional football player. At the time I was a 10-year-old kid, the president of my elementary school and a straight A student. So my teacher was upset that I said I wanted to be an athlete.

I was a smart kid and I could have done anything with my life from that point, but that was specifically what I wanted to do and at that point, it was what I was already committing myself to do. That's something I've always thought about because I'm the testament to what you can be if you put your mind to it. It doesn't matter if you want to be a lawyer, a doctor, an athlete, a veterinarian or whatever else you might want. Once you make up your mind, it's just a matter of going out and getting it, putting your heart and your all into it and achieving it. It starts with believing and then taking the proper steps to get there.

So it's really important to me, not to necessarily be a "role model," but the way I like to put it is to be a "real model." We're all living life and a lot of things can happen. But if you still have the will, you can persevere through anything and make your dreams come true. My motto is just that: Persevering to make my dreams come true.

My journey hasn't been the smoothest by any means, but I've persevered through adversity and constantly kept my mind and my will strong enough to make it to this point.

As I get ready for my first game as a San Francisco 49er, I just want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want you to know that I'm working hard to make you proud. My mentality has always been to persevere in the face of adversity and continue to get better. So you're never going to get anything less than my best effort in any given situation.

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