SANTA CLARA – The 49ers awoke to horrific news on Saturday.
Quarterback C.J. Beathard’s younger brother, Clayton, was the victim of a fatal stabbing in Nashville early Saturday. Beathard and 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan spent an hour together at the team hotel after learning of the tragedy at 3 a.m.
“It was tough seeing C.J. last night, finding out about it the way we did,” Shanahan said following the 49ers’ emotional 34-31 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. “I was going to be there for him, how horrible it is, and there’s nothing you can really do about it or say.”
Shanahan gave his team an emotional speech in the winning locker room and opened his post-game press conference with words of condolences and support for the Beathard family. Shanahan said the last thing Beathard told him was, "Make sure the guys go win this game."
For the Beathard family ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Td26FyOEND— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 22, 2019
“We’ve had C.J. here for three years, and he’s as good as any person I’ve been around,” Shanahan said. “The whole family is unbelievable.”
Beathard traveled back to his hometown of Nashville to be with his family while the 49ers won an important game to set up a showdown next week in Seattle. If the 49ers win, they will wrap up the NFC West title and homefield advantage in the playoffs.
The tragedy hit tight end George Kittle especially hard. He and Beathard attended Iowa together, and Kittle had developed a close bond with Clayton.
“Honestly, he reminded me a lot of myself,” an emotional Kittle said. “He was a ball of positivity. Everything we did, we had so much fun doing.”
Kittle said Clayton, like his brothers C.J. and Tucker, was very competitive in whatever he did, including playing pickup basketball or taking target practice.
“He was so competitive, but we always had so much fun doing it,” Kittle said. “He was really just a positive light in the world, and it will definitely not be a better place without him.”
Wide receiver Trent Taylor’s parents live in Nashville and he has spent some of his offseasons working out there with the Beathards. He also got know Clayton very well. Clayton played quarterback at Long Island University, and threw often passes to Taylor in the offseason.
Like many on the team, Taylor was devastated to learn the shocking news.
Clayton Beathard, 22, and Paul Trapeni III, 21, were fatally stabbed early Saturday morning during a fight outside a bar in Nashville, according to police. A third stabbing victim, a 21-year-old man, was treated and released.
It was a difficult day that ended with kicker Robbie Gould making a 33-yard field goal as time expired for the winning points.
“When a team goes through a situation like this – we’ve had our fair share of tragedies in the three years I’ve been here – you feel for the family and you feel for him,” Gould said. “I’m sure amidst everything they’re going through, this is something that can allow them to forget about what’s happening for a few minutes and provide some joy.
“We love C.J. He’s a great teammate. He’s a great locker room guy. We love him like a brother and we’ll always be there for him.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo converted two third-and-16 plays in the on the final drive to set up the winning field goal.
"I’m sure he’s going through a ton of stuff, I can’t even imagine," Garoppolo said. "I think everyone in the locker room feels the same way for him. I can’t even comprehend the situation. Everyone’s got his back. We love him.”
Linebacker Fred Warner, whose locker is next to Beathard’s, had a game-changing 46-yard interception return for a touchdown in the closing minute of the first half to give the 49ers their first lead of the game.
“I have a super-heavy heart for him right now. I couldn’t imagine being in that situation,” Warner said. “We wanted to play this game for C.J. and my heart goes out to him. That’s my guy. He’ll be in our prayers, for sure.”
Kittle, who is the 49ers’ emotional leader, caught five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. He struggled to keep his composure and communicate the hurt he was experiencing.
“It was definitely the toughest game of my career,” Kittle said. “Today was absolutely terrible, the entire day. Yeah, it sucked all around. I got to talk to C.J. after the game. Overall, it was just a brutal day. We got that one for C.J., and I’m so happy we could do it.”