Kittle's dad explains heartwarming game-day tradition with son

/ by Angelina Martin
Presented By Toyota

George Kittle doesn't need much to hype him up before a 49ers game, but the tight end has benefitted from a pregame tradition like no other since his college days.

George's dad, Bruce, stopped by Super Bowl Radio Row in Phoenix on Friday, where he explained the game-day letters he writes to his son during a conversation with NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco and Jennifer Lee Chan.

It all started when Bruce was an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma in 2012. George signed with the University of Iowa and went away to college -- without his dad. Bruce began writing letters for George to read on game days, filled with advice, notes about the upcoming opponent and even some trash talk.

"It just began as a way of -- you know, because he would barely return my phone calls ... It was really, at the beginning, my effort to kind of connect with him and coach him up a little bit," Bruce told Maiocco and Chan. "Like a life coach, like, 'Dude, OK, look for this. Make sure you're spending time with the quarterbacks. Watch this film.'

"Just kind of talking the maturation process of both the young man educationally and football-wise, because it was a huge process."

After coaching George for part of his high school career, Bruce coached his son through college with the game-day letters and kept it up after the tight end made it to the NFL -- a tradition that continues to this day.


"Don't tell [49ers coach Kyle Shanahan], but they send me a link every day so I have the game film," Bruce revealed. "So I still watch all his games ... I send him a play, 'I don't think your footwork is right,' you know, just stuff that I see him struggling with and that he might not see because their weeks are so full. ...

" 'Thank you, dad,' he always says, but I don't know if he's going, 'Oh my God, I can't believe he's telling me all this stuff.' So it's a little bit of that, and it's mostly just reminding him to stay grounded."

Bruce said he often tells George what a privilege it is to be playing for the 49ers in the NFL, and it's clear the letters have made an impact on the All-Pro -- especially when it comes to his cheerful demeanor on and off the field.

"We always talk about, you bring your energy, attitude and effort level, that's something you can control every day," Bruce continued. "So when you put your stuff in your locker, make sure you have the right energy, attitude and effort when you hit the field."

Bruce's letters to George might have had an extra impact this past year, as the tight end recorded a career-high 11 touchdowns during the 2022 NFL season.

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At the end of every campaign, George and his dad regroup and debrief, going over the season as a whole. And every year, Bruce has the same question for George: "You still want to do this?"

George hasn't turned down his dad's letters yet, and it's doubtful he ever will.

"It's a pretty good connection for us," Bruce said.

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