How Arik Armstead's high-school coach shaped 49ers D-lineman's journey

How Arik Armstead's high-school coach shaped 49ers D-lineman's journey

Arik Armstead has been close to Joe Cattolico since his middle school years, even before the 49ers defensive lineman played for him at Pleasant Grove High School. 

The pair maintained a close bond as Armstead made his way to the University of Oregon and, eventually, leading San Francisco in sacks this season. Believing that Cattolico shaped the man and athlete that he has become, Armstead chose to honor his former coach at the sixth annual Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards during a Thursday ceremony in San Francisco, which will be broadcast Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area. 

Armstead said Cattolico's mentorship included serious discussions and, sometimes, tough love. 

“A big reason I became good as a football player was being coached by him and his leadership,” Armstead told NBC Sports Bay Area last week before the ceremony. “He’s a stern guy, very disciplined and detail-oriented. I loved playing for him, he was hard on us and really pushed us to play at an extremely high level, and I was fortunate to be a part of the team."

One of Armstead’s most poignant memories of Cattolico, who left Pleasant Grove in 2012 as the school's winningest coach, did not begin as a positive interaction. But in the end, it was an incident that still resonates with Armstead to this day. 

“[We] were at practice one day and he just went off on me," Armstead recalled. "He went off on me in from of everybody, and I was kind of thrown off by it. Like, ‘Why are you going off on me? I’m one of the better players on the team. I really didn’t do anything.’ 

“I was kind of upset, and then after practice, he pulled me to the side and told me, ‘Arik, you’re the leader of this team and me saying something to you, and holding you accountable, and going off on you sends a message.’ " 

Cattolico is proud to have been a part of Armstead's growth. One of Cattolico’s goals as a coach is for the guidance to not stop when the player steps off the field or court, and he and Armstead have stayed close.

Armstead remains very close to the greater Sacramento community, too, promoting equal opportunities in education for underserved youth. He raised over $100,000 at his charity gala during the offseason that was well-attended by 49ers players, former teammates and other notable athletes.

Armstead's efforts also fall in line with the lessons Cattolico taught him. 

“What makes Arik special as well is the kind of human being he is,” Cattolico said. “Arik is obviously a phenomenal player, as good as anybody that I’ve been around or ever seen, but I would also say that about him as a human. He’s as good of a person that I’ve ever been around, and I think that’s what makes him special.”

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Armstead and Cattolico have similar goals in mind. Both have been successful in shaping the lives of others, and that is why they remain such close friends. 

“The underlying theme is the care and concern and interest in the lives of young people,” Cattolico said. “We have to be about something bigger than our sport.” 

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

CA Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

President Donald Trump reportedly told sports commissioners and top executives Saturday that he believes the NFL should start on time with fans returning to stadiums by August despite the coronavirus outbreak.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn't share the same thoughts.

The governor was asked about Trump's reported prediction, and said he doesn't envision California having made enough progress against the virus for it to be business as usual for the NFL come fall.

“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said Saturday. “We’ve all seen the headlines over the last couple days in Asia, where they opening up certain businesses, and now they’re starting to roll back those openings because they’re starting seeing some spread and there’s a boomerang. One has to be very cautious here, one has to be careful not to overpromise.

"It's interesting, I have a lot of friends that work in Major League Baseball and the NFL, they've been asking me -- in fact, a well-known athlete -- a football player -- just asked me if he expects to come back. I said, 'I would move very cautiously in that expectation.' "

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Newsom is making sure to prioritize safety and caution above all else before letting sports return.

“Our decision on that basis here in the State of California will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts, will be determined by our ability to meet this moment and bend the curve, and have the appropriate community surveillance and testing to confidently determine whether that's appropriate," Newsom said. "Right now, I’m just focusing on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.”

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The truth of the matter is that no one knows how long this will last or when sports will be able to return to packed stadiums. The NFL is planning on starting the schedule on time with fans in the stadium, but that might not be the case in California. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge again the fall, the fate of the NFL's season is very much up in the air.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports can only safely return once the country as a whole has turned the corner from the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

While the NFL offseason programs are postponed, many players are still working out to be ready for the time when the teams are able to get back to work in an organized setting.

In Miami, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Clelin Ferrell are working out with private defensive line coach Mark Hall.

Hall, who recently was a guest on the 49ers Insider Podcast, sent a video to NBC Sports Bay Area of the three players working out.

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The 49ers recently traded Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and re-signed Armstead to a four-year, $84 million contract. Ferrell will enter his second season with the Las Vegas Raiders after being the club’s first-round selection at No. 4 overall in the 2019 draft.