Hall of Fame semifinalist Bryant Young loves watching 49ers this season


Hall of Fame semifinalist Bryant Young loves watching 49ers this season

Bryant Young left a lasting impact on the 49ers as one of the best players to ever wear the uniform.

There has never been an individual who earned more respect from his teammates, as exemplified by the eight times he was chosen as the winner of the 49ers’ top honor, the Len Eshmont Award for courageous and inspirational play.

Young last week was announced as a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, making it to the final 25 modern-era candidates for the Class of 2020.

Upon his retirement and being carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates at the conclusion of the 2007 season, Young’s uniform No. 97 was not worn by another 49ers player for a decade.

Now, No. 97 is back making an impact, and Young is excited to see rookie defensive end Nick Bosa wearing the number with distinction.

“It’s kind of weird seeing it flash across the screen,” Young said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “But I tell you what, he’s representing that number really well and doing a good job in his first year. I’m proud of the job he’s doing with that number.”

Young is the 49ers' all-time sacks leader with 89.5. Bosa has eight sacks in his first NFL season with four games remaining on the regular-season schedule.

But Young was never about numbers, and that perspective is part of what made him special -- on and off the field.

“It’s not the number that makes the person, it’s the person that makes the number,” Young said. “To be able to wear that number for so many years, I hope people remember the person more than they remember the number, and the person and what he did in the community. The person, in terms of how he treated people in the organization and the community.

"And, then, the person as a player.”

Young coached for several seasons after his retirement as a player. He stepped away from his position as defensive line coach of the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason to spend more time with family in Charlotte, N.C.

He still follows the only NFL organization for which he played. And, of course, he pays particularly close attention to the play of the 49ers’ defensive line.

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“You see things, the chemistry that they have, they understand situational football, and guys are competing from snap to whistle, and that’s really fun to see,” Young said.

“From a fan perspective, it’s really fun to see the Niners are doing a really good job and everybody’s engaged, and it’s fun. And you feel that excitement in the air. They’re fun to watch. You understand from a coach’s standpoint, they have a good group of guys that have been assimilated on that field that really care about each other and play for each other.”

How 49ers, Packers' offseason moves were 'win-win' for LaFleur brothers

How 49ers, Packers' offseason moves were 'win-win' for LaFleur brothers

SANTA CLARA -- Either way, Mike LaFleur would have a significant role this week and Sunday night when the 49ers face the Green Bay Packers in a key game for positioning in the NFC playoffs.

LaFleur says he is happy with how everything worked out for himself and his brother, Matt LaFleur, the Packers’ first-year head coach.

Shortly after Matt LaFleur was tabbed as the surprise pick to coach the Packers, he reached out to the 49ers to hire his brother.

Mike LaFleur, 32, would have been a non-play-calling coordinator with the Packers. He has held a similar position with the 49ers since immediately following the 2017 season when he was promoted to passing game coordinator.

But 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan turned down the Packers’ request because Mike LaFleur would not have been in line for a promotion. Shanahan did not want to lose a valuable resource who remained under contract to the 49ers.

“It was cool -- honestly,” Mike LaFleur said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “I have so much respect for Kyle. I love being here. I love working here. I love living in this area. It was really a non-story for me.

“Obviously, it just kind of blew up. Matt put the request in there, and I understand he trusts me and he wanted me obviously to go to Green Bay with him. But he got a great coordinator in Nate Hackett. And I got to stay here. It’s a win-win for everybody. It’s awesome.”

The 49ers (9-1) face the Packers (8-2) on Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium in a game rich with longtime football connections and friendships.

The Packers’ head coach and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh became close friends in 2004 when they served as unpaid graduate assistant coaches at Central Michigan University. When Saleh ended up with the Houston Texans several years later and the Texans were looking for an entry level offensive coach, he recommended Matt LaFleur.

The offensive coordinator of that team was Kyle Shanahan.

Matt LaFleur subsequently became a trusted Shanahan assistant at Washington. When the coaching staff was fired following the 2013 season, LaFleur became offensive coordinator at Notre Dame.

Shanahan reached out to Matt LaFleur to see if his younger brother, Mike, would be interested in joining his staff with the Cleveland Browns as a quality control coach. Matt LaFleur immediately accepted the job on his brother’s behalf. Mike LaFleur was the offensive coordinator at Davidson at the time.

“It was a Sunday night and my wife was sleeping, and I got a call from Matt and he said, ‘Hey, you’re going to Cleveland,’ “ Mike LaFleur said.

The next day, Mike LaFleur drove to Cleveland. One year later, he made the move with Kyle Shanahan to the Atlanta Falcons. Mike and Matt LaFleur served two seasons together on the Falcons’ staff for before Matt went to the Los Angeles Rams in 2017 with Sean McVay. Mike followed Shanahan to the 49ers.

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“He’s always looked after me more than he’s looked out for himself,” Mike said of his older brother. “And I like to think that I’d do the same for him.

“Obviously, this week, we both have a job to do the whole week and on Sunday for our organizations we work for. I love him, and I know he feels the same, and he’s always had my back.”

How Daniel Brunskill, Justin Skule have learned from 49ers' star linemen

How Daniel Brunskill, Justin Skule have learned from 49ers' star linemen

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ win streak has continued with virtual unknowns Justin Skule and Daniel Brunskill playing offensive tackle.

Skule and Brunskill have done an admirable job filling in for injured starters Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey. Just like Staley and McGlinchey have similar personalities, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Skule and Brunskill remind him of each other.

The two young tackles are similar in their low-key personalities and their ability to focus without getting in their own heads. All it takes is a minute speaking with them to realize they could not be any more different than the pair of Staley and McGlinchey.

“They’re very loud and rambunctious people, and they like to give me a hard time about being monotone and not so loud,” Skule said. “But they’re fun guys to be around.”

“They’re like the same guy just different years," Brunskill said. "It’s really cool how tight they are and when you come into that room. It’s really awesome come into that room.”

Brunskill and Skule talked about the influences of Staley and McGlinchey on this week’s episode of The 49ers Insider Podcast. Both players said they have benefitted from a great culture in the offensive line meeting room that begins with those two players.

“To have those guys be as loud and funny as they are, it just lightens up the room,” Brunskill said. “Some of the days can get long with all of the meetings, and they love to bring the energy and make everything really fun. It’s easy to come in to work for that.”

Skule took over as the starter for the 49ers’ Week 3 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers when Staley fractured his leg in the 49ers’ Sept. 15 win at Cincinnati. Staley invited Skule to his house to watch film of the Steelers in preparation for his first NFL start.

“This is his third year with coach Shanahan and we’re installing something in camp and Joe is taking as many notes as anyone in the room,” said Skule, a sixth-round draft pick from Vanderbilt.

“He doesn’t sit back in his chair, like, ‘Oh, I know this.’ He’s taking the most detailed notes out of anyone. When I saw that, it really resonated with me. This is why he’s been able to be so successful in this league for so long. He treats every day like a new day.”

Brunskill spent the previous two seasons on the practice squad of the Atlanta Falcons. His first start came in the 49ers’ 20-7 over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 6. Brunskill said Staley sets a good example in the meeting room but because of their similarities in experience, he and Skule can often relate better with McGlinchey, a second-year player whom the 49ers chose in the first round of last year'draft.

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“It’s the perfect mix,” said Brunskill, who entered the NFL in 2017 with the Falcons as an undrafted rookie from San Diego State.

Staley could be back in the 49ers’ lineup as early as Thursday against the Arizona Cardinals. McGlinchey could return any time from Week 10’s game, Monday, Nov. 11, against Seattle, to Week 12 against Green Bay on Sunday, Nov. 24.