One of the better stories of the San Francisco 49ers turn around has been running back Matt Breida. In college no one wanted him, so he went to Georgia Southern. No one in the pros wanted to draft him, so he went to the 49ers because of Shanahan’s two-back offense. Now he’s one of the top rushers in the league, and may (with some diligence) get 1,000 yards for the season, the first running back to do so since Frank Gore.
And his football career all started in Hernando County Florida, two counties over from Hillsborough (home of Tampa). Sunday marks his return home after facing huge adversity for being too small, among other challenges.
A great article by ESPN’s Joel Anderson came out Friday detailing the long journey Breida had from college recruitment to NFL stardom and how it took some skill and being in the right place at the right time for Breida to blossom. His recruitment to Georgia Southern was something — no other school wanted him and even Georgia Southern had him on special teams. From Anderson’s article:
“He signed with nearby Georgia Southern, then an FCS school, mostly playing on special teams as a freshman before wowing new coach Willie Fritz his sophomore year. “After the first practice, I went over to the offensive coordinator and said, ‘I don’t know how this guy didn’t play last year,’” Fritz says. Breida became one of the most dynamic rushers in college football over the next two seasons (3,093 yards, 34 TDs, 8.3 yards per carry) as Georgia Southern made the transition to the FBS.”
His football is highlighted but another thing well-documented in the article was his upbringing. Breida was adopted by two white parents who made the decision to get out Hudson, Florida due to an uncomfortable atmosphere — the presence of the KKK and other white supremacist groups being a large part of it.
Eventually his parents were disabled due to accidents and his brother went down a darker path with gangs and drugs, yet Breida somehow made it through it all.
Josh [Breida’s brother] has been in and out of legal trouble in recent years. Matt can’t remember the last time he spoke with him. “We haven’t been close since the beginning of my freshman year,” he says. “He started hanging out with other people who were into drugs and gangs, and we went two separate paths.” (ESPN was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach Josh.)
Breida has been one of the few bright spots in what has been a nightmare of a season for the 49ers. Not only has he shown he belongs as an all-purpose back, he also has shown that Kyle Shanahan can coach. After all, an undrafted free agent that no one in college or the pros wanted is right now one of the better backs in the league.
Give this a read and prepare to be humbled.