During Super Bowl week, former players and coaches are frequently on hand to promote a cause or a product, or really just about anything. Most of the nation's sports media are on hand, and Radio Row in particular provides a perfect place to talk about whatever's on your mind.
I had a chance to sit down with some notable former 49ers over the week. One such player was Ricky Watters. He currently works as a 49ers analyst for CSN Bay Area, but he was also making the rounds of Radio Row to promote some charitable work he does. He spoke in detail and with great passion about the work he has been doing with First Place for Youth. This is a group that works with foster kids who are aging out of the system. Once a child turns 18, they leave foster care, and are left to figure out what's next. Watters works with them to help prepare them for life, whether it be driving a car, getting a job, or even just learning how to order at a restaurant.
If any of this sounds familiar, this is also what Alex Smith does with his foundation. This is an otherwise incredibly underserved segment of the population, and this kind of work is very important. I've transcribed his discussion down below.
We also talked about the 49ers. He had some pretty general answers about Chip Kelly, but he also made a good point about running back Carlos Hyde. He said he is a big fan of Hyde, but he is also glad the team shut him down after the injury. They didn't formally announce a shutdown, but he eventually had surgery to repair the issue. Trent Baalke has since said he expects Hyde to be ready for the offseason workout program, but they will obviously defer to the doctors' decisions with health.
The 49ers have a handful of notable players coming off injury last season. We'll be going over each one of them in detail, but Carlos Hyde is arguably the most important of that group (depending on your views on Antoine Bethea vs. Jaquiski Tartt). He has a bruising running style, and there is concern that it will cut short his career at some point. He could very well have a lengthy career, but his tackle-breaking style is prone to wear him down a bit quicker than normal. Of course, if the 49ers can find a legitimate backup (or two), it would certainly help to extend out Hyde's effectiveness.
For now, we're just looking to see him get through a 16-game schedule with some effectiveness. He is expected to face more nickel defenses, as compared to base defenses, which means an extra defensive back instead of an extra linebacker. I wonder if that will help keep him a little bit fresher heading into the back half of the upcoming season?
On First Place For Youth:
First Place For Youth, because I like to start with them and what they're doing, they help foster care young people who age out, which is at 18, I don't know about you, but there was no way I was ready for life. And I was at Notre Dame at the time, I had a lot of support, a lot of coaches, teachers, and my parents, and I could call them and they could help me. So I couldn't even imagine trying to be out on my own. And the reason it's a good fit for us, and the reason we're together with them is because that's what we had been doing with young people. We've seen young people going through the foster care system, and then aging out. We help them getting things right. Getting shelter first of all. Getting a place to live, a car. Getting their family together for some people. They don't know where to start, don't know what to do. We help teach them how to drive. Things you might think they know, but they don't.
We just try to take them out of their comfort zone a little bit, and teach them a few things, so that the next time they're in that situation, which is the real world, they actually feel a little bit more comfortable. They know what to do, they understand, if you go to certain restaurants, how things are done in those restaurants, they have their nuances. It's been a great thing. I'm sure for them, but they've helped us as well. They've helped our family. We have two boys, one's 15 and one's 8. Throughout their whole life, they know these kids at different ages that have been in our life. And can always call up, always reach out to us, and that they still talk to to this day. And when they're with us in our city, we've taken them with us to things that we love to do. We take them and our kids want them to come and share it with them, which is really good. And it helps our kids, because they've grown up with a privileged life, and can learn not to be spoiled, and not to be complacent, and they're doing that and learning a lot from these kids.
On some of the specific work he does:
I have my own foundation, but at the same time, I've learned the best thing is partnering with these other people that are already doing it. and are doing it as well. And we can reach more people, and we can do more that way. I love partnering with people, and since we've been back in the Bay Area, that's what we've been doing. Partnering with different organizations to make dreams come true for these young people. And to try and help, because they need so much. There's so many ways that a person can help their situation. Obviously they would love to get adopted, and they need that and they need the love of a family and all that. But at the same time, you can be a mentor, you can donate money, you can help in various ways. And I think that's what's so great about it, and I think that's what's so great about getting that awareness out there, and being able to do it here at the Super Bowl is just so awesome.