In this free agency frenzy sometimes stories such as this seem to slip through the cracks. Eric Heitmann, a main stay a long the 49ers offensive line over the last 9 seasons has been released by the team. This doesn't come as that much of a surprise considering his neck injury the possibility that he won't play again. Nonetheless, I think it is important to recognize Heitmann for what he has done for San Francisco over the duration of nearly the last decade.
Eric Heitmann was a 7th round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2002, the last time they made the playoffs. Other than long snapper, Brian Jennings, he was longest tenured 49er player. In 2002, Heitmann became the first rookie offensive linemen to start for the 49ers since Harris Barton in 1987. After approximately four years of playing the guard position, Heitmann switched to center after the 49ers parted ways with Jeremy Newberry.
He started 92 of a possible 94 games from 2004-2009 and was arguably the team's best offensive linemen during that time. Heitmann wasn't the most talented player to put on a 49er uniform, but his work ethic was second to none. From the minute he put on a 49er uniform, Heitmann gave his heart and soul to the team.
Sometimes players like Heitmann are overlooked within the glitz, glamour and ego-filled NFL. But, as a true fan of the game you have to respect those who give it there all in the trenches. These are the unheralded and selfless types, the individuals that put their neck on the line on every play, especially the center.
Heitmann represented the old school of 49er offensive line play in the mold of Harris Barton, Randy Cross, Keith Fahnhorst and Jesse Sapolu. Heitman is a part of this dying breed of players. Those who give it all and doesn't ask for much in return. He loved playing the game of football, never complained about switching to center, and was loved by his teammates.
As we move on to a new era of 49ers football with Jim Harbaugh, past players such as Eric Heitmann and Joe Nedney cannot be forgotten. These are the players that represented San Francisco 49er football at its utmost despite playing for losing teams.
Eric Heitmann, you sir are a class act and as a 49er fan I will never forget the commitment you made to our team and to this franchise.