Matt Breida's long road to 49ers' starting running back, through his eyes


Matt Breida's long road to 49ers' starting running back, through his eyes

SANTA CLARA -- He received six scholarship offers, but none from a school in a power conference. He wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, nor was he drafted.

Overcoming the odds is nothing new to 49ers second-year running back Matt Breida, who enters Week 5 of the NFL season as the league’s third-leading rusher behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams.

Breida knows his birth mom was 5-foot-1, and his biological father was 6-1. He knows he has an older brother and an older sister. He knows his birth mom gave him up for adoption in hopes it would lead to a better life.

That’s all he knows. And, at least for now, that’s all he has ever cared to know.

Mike and Terri Breida, a white couple who moved from the Philadelphia area to outside of Tampa, Fla., are the only parents he knows. And that is why he has never been too curious about his birth family, Breida said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

Breida learned plenty about adversity growing up. He saw the sacrifices that were made for him and his brother, Josh, who is two years younger than Matt and also adopted.

“Some nights my dad wouldn’t eat or he’d eat very little to make sure me and my brother be full and be able to wake up the next day and go to school,” Matt Breida said.

Mike Breida contracted a life-threatening case of meningitis that left him permanently disabled. Terri has been confined to a wheelchair since a serious car accident in 2006 left her unable to work.

Sports helped keep the young football player on the right path, he said. And from an early age he had it in his mind that he could someday play in the NFL.

“Me and my dad would sit on the couch and watch football,” Matt Breida said. “We’d always watch the NFL. I always told myself that’s where I want to get. So I started playing, and I was 6 years old. And I loved it ever since. I’m blessed to be in the position I am today.”

Breida, who is listed at 5-10 and 190 pounds, opened the season sharing the 49ers’ lead-back role with veteran Alfred Morris after Jerick McKinnon sustained a season-ending knee injury one week before the regular-season opener. Breida has established himself with 313 yards rushing on 41 carries. His 7.6-yard average is best in the NFL among running backs with more than 10 rushing attempts.

As has been the case for his entire life, all Breida needed was an opportunity.

He signed with the 49ers as an undrafted rookie in 2017 from Georgia Southern after building a bond with running backs coach Bobby Turner and run game coordinator Mike McDaniel. He outworked and outshined Joe Williams, a fourth-round draft pick, from the day of his arrival in Santa Clara.

In April, Breida married his high school sweetheart, Silvana, a soccer player who spent a season as a kicker on the varsity football team with Breida. He thinks about starting a family and helping take care of Mike and Terri Breida, the people who made sacrifices for him every step of the way.

“Growing up, I wanted to put myself in position to eventually take care of them one day for what they did for me,” Breida said. “I could be in a worse position. I could’ve been in a foster home. Who knows how it would’ve ended up? So I want to give back as much as I can and make them proud.”

Aaron Rodgers shades Drew Brees, says NFL protests 'NEVER' about flag

Aaron Rodgers shades Drew Brees, says NFL protests 'NEVER' about flag

Hours after New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he considered players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans "disrespecting the flag," a superstar peer not-so-subtly pushed back.

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers shared a picture of him and his teammates locking arms before a 2017 game, writing in an Instagram post on Wednesday that such demonstrations have "NEVER been about an anthem or a flag."

"Not then. Not now," Rodgers wrote. "Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action."

Yahoo Finance asked Brees earlier Wednesday if he would support players kneeling in protest during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" this season, as demonstrators around the world protest police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who was unarmed, dying in Minneapolis police custody last Monday. Brees, echoing comments he made four years ago when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat then kneeled during the national anthem before games, said he "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country."

Rodgers did not directly mention Brees, but the Saints signal-caller faced widespread rebuke Wednesday.

Star 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman called Brees "beyond lost." Michael Thomas, the Saints' best receiver and Brees' top target, didn't mention Brees by name on Twitter, but it was clear who he was referring to in a pair of tweets.

Malcolm Jenkins, who previously raised a fist during the national anthem, co-founded the Players Coalition in 2017 and signed with the Saints this offseason, said Brees is "part of the problem" with his "hurtful" and "insensitive" comments.

Just eight of the NFL's 32 starting quarterbacks are African American. After Carson Wentz, Ryan Tannehill and 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow spoke up following Floyd's death, Sherman said it was important for white QBs to speak out against police brutality and institutional racism because their voices "carry different weight than the black voices for some people." Just before Brees spoke, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said he would stop "sticking to sports."

[RELATED: Poole writes Brees revealed he's part of problem, not solution]

A day before his comments about the flag, Brees posted a black square on his Instagram page as part of #BlackoutTuesday. The social-media campaign was initially intended for members of the music industry to "disconnect from work and reconnect with our community" but later spread to celebrities, influencers and everyday users intending to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Scores of users initially posted with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, obscuring posts that #BlackoutTuesday participants hoped to elevate.

Brees used the proper hashtag Tuesday, but his understanding of his protesting peers' goals is now in question.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' Richard Sherman speaks from experience in revealing police problem

49ers' Richard Sherman speaks from experience in revealing police problem

George Floyd's tragic death in Minneapolis police custody has rocked the nation, and while the human spectrum present at the countless protests across the country and world at large does point to some progress in racial equality, the catalyst that sparked them is a reminder that there still is so far to go.

That's why Colin Kaepernick kneeled. And the fact that people still don't understand why he did and still don't understand the message behind "Black Lives Matter" are reasons why more progress hasn't been made.

"I think that's the frustrating part," 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said Wednesday on "NFL Total Access." "The people that the message is trying to get through to are unwilling to accept the message. And when you're combative and defensive about something you don't even fully understand, there can't be progress. So, whenever somebody says, 'Hey, this black man got killed on national TV in front of the world,' there should be a sense of anger from everybody, regardless of race, because it was just wrong."

Sherman's remarks came as part of a discussion in which he and former NFL defensive end Chris Long offered their thoughts on how players can use their platforms to fight racism in their communities. He spoke from his own personal experience in explaining the enormity of the issue at hand, and pointed to the disparity in how Floyd was treated by the police as compared to white mass murderers, such as Dylann Roof.

"As somebody who was born in Watts, California and raised in Compton and seen some terrible things, you understand that it's not always on camera," Sherman said. "It's not always on camera; It's just these few incidents you guys have caught on camera. There are hundreds of thousands of incidents you don't catch on camera, thousands of innocent men sitting in jail cells because it's word of mouth that has put them there. 'Hey, this person said they did this. There's not a lot of evidence, but hey, they're black. We assume they did it.' And so that's where people are getting frustrated and this has become the tipping point ... 

" ... for three officers to be on top of [Floyd], one officer on the side watching, and there's also video evidence of them kind of roughing him up in the car, like, that's not okay. And it wouldn't have been okay for them to do it to mass murderers who were white who came in and shot up innocent people. It wouldn't have been okay for them to stop them and not let them see their day in court. But the way those situations were approached is what a lot of people see problems with. Because [Floyd] wasn't a threat. 

"So if the man isn't a threat and he can't see his day in court, and two men who were actually full threats -- killed, murdered, they were real threats. They were threatening, they had guns -- and you didn't feel the fear or angst or anxiety to, 'Hey, pull a trigger. Let me shoot this guy before he shoots me,' that you do when a guy is unarmed, then that's part of the problem."

[RELATED: Sherman says Brees is 'beyond lost' with kneeling comments]

The problem Sherman describes is a complex one with many parts. But if we all do our part individually -- listening, learning, striving for change -- it can only benefit the whole.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]