clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

61 days to 49ers kickoff: Who wore it best? Who wears it now?

The San Francisco 49ers season starts in 61 days. We take a look at jersey No. 61, which belonged to one of the franchise's great centers.

George Rose/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers kick off the 2015 NFL regular season on Monday Night Football, on September 14. That game means San Francisco is now a mere 61 days away from kicking off its 2015 regular season. In the spirit of that approaching date, I thought I would steal this idea from our Oakland Raiders site.

Who wore it best: OL Jesse Sapolu (1983-1997)

This was not even a close one. One of the key cogs of the 49ers dynasty was offensive lineman Jesse Sapolu. He played most of his years at center, but also had several years at left guard. It took him several years to crack the lineup, but once he did, he was a stalwart. From 1988 to 1996, he started all but three games. He was voted to the Pro Bowl team twice, in 1993 and 1994. He is one of six 49ers to hold four Super Bowl rings, and is the only player whose fourth was the 1994 team, as opposed to the 1981 team.

Sapolu was a great center, and his performance was all the more amazing given his medical condition. Sapolu developed a torn aortic heart valve when he was a kid dealing with rheumatic fever. It resulted in his heart having to work harder, and the heart walls growing larger. This led to shortness of breath, which kept him from participating in sports when he was younger. He finally got clearance to play, and managed to turn into one the 49ers great offensive linemen in spite of constantly dealing with dangerous shortness of breath. He eventually had the valve replaced in his last year of football (I'm not sure if it was before or after the season).

In recent years, Sapolu helped co-found the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame. He currently serves as chair of the organization.

Who wears it now: OL Andrew Tiller (2014-present)

The 49ers signed Andrew Tiller to their practice squad this past season on October 7. He was originally a 2012 sixth round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints. He was on the Saints 53-man roster in 2012, and was released late in training camp in 2013. He spent parts of 2013 on the San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers practice squads.

Tiller got some starting reps at left guard during the 49ers offseason workout program the last few months. Once Alex Boone returned, Tiller moved back down the depth chart. We'll see where he fits in when the team returns for training camp.