Tom Rathman, who spent 22 of his 31 NFL seasons as a player and coach with the 49ers, announced his retirement on Thursday.
Rathman, a member of the 49ers Hall of Fame, spent his final three NFL seasons as running backs coach with the Indianapolis Colts.
Rathman, 58, was not retained as an assistant coach on Kyle Shanahan’s staff in February 2017. Shanahan already had his running backs coach, Bobby Turner, but the 49ers remained open to finding another role on the staff for Rathman.
But Rathman's passion was coaching running backs, and he said it made sense for all parties for him to continue his career elsewhere. He said there were no negatives to the situation. Rathman was inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame at Levi's Stadium two months later.
“I’m looking to coach running backs and that’s what I want to do,” Rathman said at the time. “I’m just going to wait for the next opportunity and go for it when it happens.”
He got that chance with the Colts on Frank Reich’s staff. The Colts announced Rathman’s retirement.
"It was an honor to represent the NFL for more than 30 years as a coach and player," Rathman said in a statement. "I was proud to represent and coach some outstanding players and I'm thankful for my time in Indianapolis. I'll always be a Colts fan."
As a coach, Rathman emphasized taking care of the football. He was known for constantly -- and loudly -- reminding offensive players to hold onto the ball tightly. Last season, Colts running backs had just one fumble on 553 touches.
"Tom Rathman's three seasons with the Colts caps an unbelievable NFL career that spans 31 years as a player and coach," Reich said in a statement.
"He made an immediate impact in our running back room upon his arrival and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the development of our backs into multifaceted players. We'll miss hearing his infamous, ‘Squeeze it!' from the sideline at practice and on game day.”
Both the 49ers and franchise icon Frank Gore made statements on Rathman's retirement as well.
49ers: "The 49ers family would like to congratulate Tom Rathman on concluding a tremendous, 31-year career as both a player and a coach in the National Football League. During more than two decades as a 49er, he left an indelible mark on our organization, the players he coached and the defenders he battled. Tom coached his players the same way he played the game, with a selfless, hard-nosed dedication to getting the best out of himself and those around him. A member of the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame, he is the quintessential 49er in every way. We are so happy for Tom, his wife, Holly, and their family, as he steps away from the game to which he gave so much.
Gore: “I want to congratulate Tom on a Hall of Fame career – both as a player and a coach. Tom was a father-figure to me. He came into my life and career at the perfect time. He challenged me every day to be better, both on the field and off, and I always wanted to make him proud. Tom helped me see the big picture of football and I wouldn’t have had as much success throughout my career without him. I love him. SQUEEZE IT!"
Rathman began his NFL journey as a fullback with the 49ers as a third-round pick from Nebraska in 1986. He played with the 49ers through the 1993 season. He was a starter on two Super Bowl-winning teams and seven NFC West champions. He finished his career in 1994 with the Los Angeles Raiders before transitioning into coaching.
He spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Menlo College before Steve Mariucci hired him to his staff with the 49ers in 1997.
Rathman followed Mariucci to the Detroit Lions for three seasons before serving as Lane Kiffin’s running backs coach with the Raiders in 2007 and ’08.
Rathman returned to the 49ers in 2009, working under Mike Singletary, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly.
“It’s been fantastic,” Rathman said in 2017 of his time with the 49ers. “Just going back to the playing days in the DeBartolo era. Playing for the organization and coaching for Eddie and the York family and Jed. They’ve shown me nothing but respect. I have no hard feelings.
"I still feel like I’m part of the family. Even though I won’t be there, I’ll still feel part of the family.”