New 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw finds inspiration from Patrick Willis

New 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw finds inspiration from Patrick Willis

SANTA CLARA – The journey for linebacker Dre Greenlaw to arrive with the 49ers on Thursday started at 6:15 a.m.

He showed up 3 ½ hours early for his flight to the Bay Area.

“I’m just ready to get started,” Greenlaw said after reporting to the team’s headquarters. “They’re going to give me an opportunity to prove myself and that’s all I really need.”

It was a long day of travel, but the real journey started long before his arrival at the airport. Greenlaw, who describes himself as an orphan, grew up in group homes and foster care. When he began playing football, one of his first heroes was former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, he said.

“I saw his story,” said Greenlaw, the 49ers’ fifth-round draft pick from Arkansas. “I was young at the time. I really wasn’t around a lot of TV when I was real young. In the group home, they didn’t allow us to watch TV. And even when I lived in the shelter and I lived with my foster parents, I didn’t watch a lot of TV.

“I knew the story about Patrick Willis and his brother and his life situation and what he went through.”

Willis grew up in poverty and in an abusive household in Tennessee. Willis served as the father figure for his siblings. Willis’ younger brother, Detris, drowned in 2006 at the age of 17. Willis was a seven-time Pro Bowl player in his eight-year NFL career.

Greenlaw’s own story is inspiring. He said he would not change the difficulties he faced while growing up because of how it shaped him to be the person he is today. He served as a team captain at Arkansas after being star Fayetteville (Ark.) High.

“It’s a story not a lot of people can say that they went through and made it out of,” Greenlaw said. “There’s a lot of kids in foster homes that may not have gotten the same opportunity, but if they just hear somebody else’s story and they see somebody has been through something as similar to them, maybe they get the idea and hope that they can do it, too, which they can.

[RELATED: Man tweets story of how Greenlaw saved daughter]

“I’m grateful and thankful for what I been through. It made me who I am today.”

How Jimmy Garoppolo's impact on 49ers' offense goes beyond numbers

How Jimmy Garoppolo's impact on 49ers' offense goes beyond numbers

Despite the 49ers finishing with a 13-3 record and advancing to Super Bowl LIV, few NFL pundits seem willing to give Jimmy Garoppolo any credit for the team’s success.

The quarterback needed just eight pass attempts to defeat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game, as San Francisco rode a dominant run game and suffocating defensive performance to a 37-20 victory.

Fox Sports 1’s Colin Cowherd isn’t among the detractors and voiced his support for Jimmy G ahead of a Super Bowl showdown with reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

“He carried this team in the middle of the season when they fell apart physically,” Cowherd said on "The Herd" this week. “I’m not a stat guy, I’m an eye guy. Watch the games.”

The success of the run game for the Niners this season didn’t necessitate a lot of pass-heavy games, but Garoppolo still finished eighth among qualified NFL quarterbacks in passer rating.

[RELATED: 49ers taking entire staff to Super Bowl]

When the 49ers have ended up in a shootout this year, Garoppolo has stepped up.

When they’ve needed him to just manage the game and make the occasional throw downfield, Garoppolo has stepped up.

No matter what the scenario, Garoppolo has delivered and this 49ers team wouldn't be anywhere near the Super Bowl without his steady leadership guiding the offense.

Jimmy G now has the chance to solidify himself among the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks when he and the Niners take the field against the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami for Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium.

49ers taking entire staff to Miami for Super Bowl 54, Jed York reveals

49ers taking entire staff to Miami for Super Bowl 54, Jed York reveals

The 49ers will fly to Miami on Sunday to play in the NFL franchise’s seventh Super Bowl. Despite this being a semi-regular thing, CEO Jed York isn’t treating it that way.

York said Friday that he’s bringing all full-time staff to Miami for Super Bowl week and treating them to the game. He even mentioned bringing interns.

That’s, you know, a lot of people on the 49ers’ dime.

“We're taking a lot of people. We wanted to make sure that our entire staff had the opportunity to go,” York said in a meeting with local reporters. “Everybody from [head coach Kyle Shanahan to general manager John Lynch] all the way down to interns, everyone's been a part of this, and we wanted to make sure they're there to help and also celebrate the moment that hopefully gets us over the hump."

That’s an unusual benefit for support staff outside football operations, one that will allow everyone involved with the 49ers to enjoy a week basking in the team’s achievements leading up to Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium.

[RELATED: Jed York felt 49ers could reach Super Bowl when they drafted Nick Bosa]

The 49ers are trying to win their sixth Super Bowl title, which would tie them with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots for the most in NFL history. The Chiefs are currently 1.5-point favorites in this clash of Titans.