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44 days until 49ers kickoff: Who wore it best? Who wears it now?

The San Francisco 49ers season starts in 44 days. We take a look at jersey No. 44, worn by several notable fullbacks.

Otto Greule Jr/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 44 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: FB Tom Rathman (1986-1993)

Unfortunately, I could not find a usable picture of Tom Rathman sporting No. 44. Several recent 49ers have worn the number, but Tommy Vardell was my favorite choice for this particular article. Touchdown Tommy spent two seasons with the 49ers, one in 1996 and one in 1999. He got his nickname at Stanford, and took it to the next level during two seasons with Detroit in which he scored 12 touchdowns.

While cornerback Bruce Taylor was a very solid option for who wore this one best, there was no way I could give this to anybody but Tom Rathman. Currently serving as the 49ers running backs coach, Rathman spent eight years with the 49ers before closing out his career for one season with the Raiders. In eight seasons, Rathman was a key aspect of the West Coast Offense. He was a great blocking back, a solid short-yardage rushing option, and a great pass catcher. His best year as a receiver was in 1989, when he caught 73 passes for 616 yards.

Who wears it now: LB Philip Wheeler (2015-present)

I have a hunch this number will change by the end of training camp. The 49ers signed Philip Wheeler to a one-year deal, and the retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland open significant opportunities for him. Michael Wilhoite opened training camp on the NFI list, which bolsters that opportunity. Wilhoite is expected to have a short stint on the NFI list, but every opportunity is big at this point. My guess is Wheeler ends up as the primary reserve linebacker, but a significant opportunity is available.