SANTA CLARA — Moments after the 49ers’ 20-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, the team shared a special moment in the locker room.
CEO Jed York attended the game the same weekend after learning his younger brother, Tony, passed away at the age of 35. Coach Kyle Shanahan presented York with a game ball afterward. York hugged Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. Then, York spoke to the team.
“This hasn’t been the easiest year for any of us. That’s probably the understatement of the year,” York said. “My brother was a great kid. He loved everything about this. He loved you guys. It was hard for him sometimes, and I think he’s at peace now.
“But I want you guys to know this: I talked to Kyle and John a little last night. Bill Walsh said something. . . 'Champions behave like champions before they’re champions.’ This team is going to be a champion."
York continued, “I’m going to leave a ring when we get one for my brother. And I want everyone to look around this room. Know how good that we can be. Believe in this brotherhood. Believe in this guy (Shanahan). Believe in this guy (Lynch). Believe in yourselves. And it’s going to be about mental toughness. It’s going to be about what can we get through more than the other 31 teams out there. And we are going to do it. You guys keep fighting your asses off. I’m going to get my brother a ring. I appreciate this (game ball) very, very much.”
Shanahan also spoke about Tony York at the beginning of his postgame press conference.
“For us to have a win today with what happened to him yesterday, it means a ton,” Shanahan said. “I know it means a lot to the York family. He was a special person who will be missed a lot.”
Believe in this brotherhood.— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) December 10, 2018
This one's for you, Tony. pic.twitter.com/IKbejnwfar
Left tackle Joe Staley, a 12-year veteran, was around Tony York longer than anyone else on the team. He described him as a “great guy.”
“It’s just absolutely heart-breaking for them,” Staley said. “It’s a tight, close-knit loving family, and any time there’s a young death like this, it’s just tragic. Your heart goes out to them, and you just feel so bad.”
The players were made aware of Tony’s Friday death at the team’s walk-through practice Saturday. The win was dedicated to his memory in the victorious locker room.
The 49ers improved to 3-10 with the well-timed victory. York also expressed his feelings in a message he posted on Twitter, which read:
Shanahan described Tony as the biggest 49ers fan he has known in the two years he has lived in the Bay Area as the organization's coach.
“This game was definitely for him,” Shanahan said.
Said Staley: “It was really special to get this win today. I don’t know how he did it, but it was unbelievable that Jed was even here in this situation. We wanted to get this win and play inspired football for him. It meant a lot.”
Tony was born in Youngtown, Ohio, and he was known as a friendly, kind person who was passionate about philanthrophy. A resident of Sausalito, Tony York is survived by his parents, John York and Denise DeBartolo York, brother Jed and sisters, Jenna and Mara.
“Obviously, there was a lot of enthusiasm in trying to get this game for him and for the family, for Dr. York, Denise and Jed,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said.