Why George Kittle's dad writes him a letter before every 49ers game


Why George Kittle's dad writes him a letter before every 49ers game


That was George Kittle’s response to whether or not the tight end has ever had a bad day. Not just in his NFL career, but throughout his nearly 26 years of life.

After the season Kittle put together in 2018, it’s fair to say football didn’t generate many sub-par days for him. Kittle led the league in receiving yards per game by a tight end (86.1) and ended up with 88 catches for almost 1,400 yards.

Another thing that might be keeping Kittle from having a “glass-half-empty” kind of day is a tradition Kittle and his father, Bruce, have had for almost a decade, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN:

Every Saturday during the season, a letter for George Kittle arrives at 49ers headquarters. The next day, Kittle makes reading it his top priority. The letters are from his father, usually three or four pages long with a mix of notes about the upcoming opponent, observations from the previous week's game, a photo or two and what Bruce calls "significant" (and often vulgar) trash-talk. The letters are themed-things like staying focused on the moment and savoring the opportunity to play football -- and usually feature a cameo from comic book heroes like Batman or Spider-Man.

"That's kind of like the first step to my switch," Kittle told ESPN. "I read that and I know, 'Hey, it's game day, lock in.'"

Bruce said the tradition started after he learned the story of Austin Box, a former linebacker at Oklahoma who passed away from a drug overdose. His father, Craig, wrote Austin a letter before every football game from the time his son was in seventh grade.

The Iowa alum has always been able to dial it up a notch when he steps on the field, even using an iconic movie character from the Batman universe as his inspiration.

 "I don't try to channel all the Joker, obviously, because he has some issues," Kittle said. "Creating a little bit of chaos is just kind of what I try to do. I'm just trying to be the most outgoing, craziest person on the field."

Kittle’s high school coach, Greg Nation, went a different way and compared him to an infamous professional wrestler.

“That dude is Ric Flair on the football field," Nation said. "When the lights come on and he comes out of the locker room, he flips that switch and he's in that same place until the end of the game. And then he goes back to being George Kittle."

[RELATED: Why George Kittle wants to channel his inner Joker on 49ers game days]

49ers fans hope to see more of that menacing on-field personality, as Kittle hopes to finally have a franchise QB in Jimmy Garoppolo for a full campaign.

After the season No. 85 put together with a combination of Garoppolo, Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard at QB, Kittle should be looking forward to continuing his streak of good days.

49ers' Richard Sherman responds to 'armchair coaches' who wanted tie

49ers' Richard Sherman responds to 'armchair coaches' who wanted tie

Over his nine-year NFL career, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman has played for two head coaches: Pete Carroll and Kyle Shanahan. He doesn't come from the school of Herm Edwards, but the two have one thing in common. 

They play to win the game. 

The 49ers had a chance to settle for a tie in overtime when they fell to the Seahawks, 27-24, on Monday. Sherman saw tweets questioning Shanahan's play-calling at the end of the game, and in a way only the three-time All-Pro know how to, he fired back on Thursday. 

"That's coming from people who don't know ball, if I'm being honest," Sherman said to reporters. "You get to the point where you've got armchair quarterbacks, armchair GMs, armchair coaches like, 'Oh man, I would have done this.' And that's why you're sitting on the couch and not in this sport as a professional.

"You've got people, who don't do this for a living, talking about what they would have done, and it's cool, I guess, for social media chatter. It's great for it there. But as people who play the game, and who put the sacrifice in, who go out there and lay their bodies out on the line, you don't play a tie."

The 49ers had the ball on their own 20-yard line with the score tied and only 1:50 remaining in OT. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw three straight incompletions, and after a Mitch Wishnowsky punt, only 25 seconds ran off the clock. 

Shanahan and his offense had an opportunity to move down the field and improve to 9-0 on the season. They failed, yet still have the best record in the NFC. 

[RELATED: Should 49ers have gone for tie late in overtime loss]

"If you have a chance to drive the ball down the field and try to win the game," Sherman continued, "then I would think everybody would want us to try to win the game. You don't want a tie."

Sherman's right, and the 49ers remain in the driver's seat with seven games to go. 

49ers' K'Waun Williams on Pro Bowl ballot after Richard Sherman's plea

49ers' K'Waun Williams on Pro Bowl ballot after Richard Sherman's plea

Ask and you shall receive. 

Richard Sherman wanted fellow 49ers defensive back K'Waun Williams added to the Pro Bowl ballot after San Francisco's nickel corner originally had been left off it.

On Thursday, the NFL obliged.

The 49ers currently have the league's best pass defense according to DVOA, and Williams has been a big reason why. While San Francisco has had to use multiple outside corners due to injury, Williams had provided a consistent, steadying force in the slot. He's totaled 22 tackles, three forced fumbles and two interceptions through 10 games, and opposing quarterbacks have been limited to a 67.6 passer rating when targeting him.

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was asked about Williams' addition to the ballot, and made it clear he thinks the recognition is deserved.

"He’s earned it," Saleh said, "he’s worked his tail off and he’s been healthy. I think people are starting to recognize how valuable he is in the slot."

Traditionally, nickelbacks have not been included on the Pro Bowl ballot, which partly explains why Williams was left off in the first place. But with the way the league is changing, Saleh thinks the NFL should reconsider how Pro Bowl rosters are constructed.

"You know, I don’t understand the whole system," Saleh added. "I think it’s archaic in terms of the nickel plays a majority of the snaps, but you still have a SAM backer and a fullback. I don’t know how the whole thing works, but I do think slot corner should get a little bit more recognition than they do. I’m pumped for him that he’s getting that."

[RELATED: 49ers' decisions on active players could be made for them]

While Williams' inclusion on the ballot is deserved, San Francisco certainly wouldn't mind if he wasn't able to participate in the actual Pro Bowl. That, of course, is because players participating in the Super Bowl are ineligible to play in the Pro Bowl, which occurs the week prior. If the 49ers reach the final game of the 2019 season, you can be sure Williams played a big role in helping them get there.