The San Francisco 49ers did not have much turnover on the coaching staff this offseason, but they did fill out the staff with their annual group of interns. On Tuesday, the team announced their 2018 Bill Walsh Coaching Fellows. The group includes Nick Ferguson, Robert Flagler, Van Malone, Ricky Manning Jr., Lamar Owens, Chris Samuels, Roman Sapolu, Jonathan Scott, Chidera Uzo-Diribe, and James Willis.
The Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship was initially created by Bill Walsh as a way to get minority coaches more opportunities to learn, coupled with greater exposure to job opportunities. He worked with Dr. Harry Edwards to create the program. Since then, the NFL has formalized the program, and now all 32 teams take part in it.
The group includes some notable names. Ferguson is in his second consecutive offseason stint with the 49ers as a coaching fellow, and will work with the defensive backs. Sapolu is the son of former 49ers standout offensive lineman Jesse Sapolu. The younger Sapolu will work with the offensive line after spending the past three years coaching at Nebraska. The most notable former player on the list is former Washington offensive lineman Chris Samuels. He spent ten years in the NFL after being selected third overall in 2000.
Here is a short list of which position groups the fellows will be assisting with throughout training camp, followed by biographies on each person, courtesy of 49ers PR.
Nick Ferguson: Defensive Backs
Robert Flagler: Running Backs
Van Malone: Outside Linebackers
Ricky Manning Jr.: Defensive Backs
Lamar Owens: Quarterbacks
Chris Samuels: Offensive Line
Roman Sapolu: Offensive Line
Jonathan Scott: Offensive Line
Chidera Uzo-Diribe: Defensive Line
James Willis: Linebackers
Ferguson played safety in the NFL from 2000-09 and will work with San Francisco’s defensive backs. This marks the second-consecutive offseason he will work with the team as a coaching fellow. He is currently a NFL Football Youth & High School Football Ambassador and sports analyst. Following his NFL playing career with the New York Jets (2000-02), Denver Broncos (2003-07) and Houston Texans (2008-09), he went on to receive coaching internships with the Texans (2012), Seattle Seahawks (2014) and Broncos (2015). Ferguson received his bachelor’s degree in business at Georgia Tech in 1996 and is currently pursuing his master’s of sports administration from Canisius College (Buffalo, NY).
Flagler, who will work with the running backs, returns to the team after being selected by San Francisco in the first round (25th overall) of the 1987 NFL Draft. He was also a member of two Super Bowl championship (XXIII & XXIV) teams. He played five seasons in the NFL with the 49ers (1987-89) and Cardinals (1990-91), before his starting his coaching career. After navigating through the high school coaching ranks in Fernandina Beach and Jacksonville, FL from 2001-17, Flagler made the jump to the professional level as an assistant running backs coach during training camp with the New York Jets in 2017. A former running back at Clemson University, Flagler earned his coaching certificate from the school in 1987 and would later receive his degree in business management from the University of Phoenix in 2016.
Malone joins San Francisco’s Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship after serving as Southern Methodist University’s defensive coordinator from 2015-17. Malone, a former defensive back, played collegiately at the University of Texas before spending four seasons with the Detroit Lions (1994-97). Malone has served as wide receivers coach at North Dakota State University (2003), cornerbacks coach at Western Michigan University (2004), defensive backs coach at the University of North Texas (2005) and Texas A&M University (2006-09), defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Tulsa (2010-11) and defensive backs coach at Oklahoma State University (2012-14) before joining SMU. Malone will work with the 49ers outside linebackers.
Manning Jr., who will work with the 49ers defensive backs, spent six seasons as an NFL cornerback with the Carolina Panthers (2003-05), Chicago Bears (2006-07) and St. Louis Rams (2008). He appeared in 84 regular season games (28 starts) and registered 237 tackles, 14 interceptions, 33 passes defensed, seven fumble recoveries, 4.0 sacks and four forced fumbles. He also saw action in 10 postseason contests (six starts) and added 31 tackles, nine passes defensed and five interceptions. Manning Jr. began his coaching career as the head coach of Edison High School (Fresno, CA) in 2012, before joining Fresno City College (2013-14) as a secondary and special teams assistant coach. He then joined Fresno State University (2015), where he served as a graduate assistant working with the defensive backs. Manning Jr. next served as the assistant defensive backs coach with the Seattle Seahawks from 2016-17, where he worked closely with current 49ers CB Richard Sherman. A four-year starter at UCLA, Manning Jr. earned First-Team All-Pac-10 honors in three consecutive seasons (2000-02). He graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in history, in addition to earning another bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in organizational leadership from Fresno Pacific University.
Owens will work with the 49ers quarterbacks as he is entering his third season as Georgia Institute of Technology’s special teams coordinator. He has also served as the school’s slot backs coach since 2010. Owens, who was a quarterback at the Naval Academy (2002-05), has coached at Georgia Institute of Technology since he began his coaching career working with the quarterbacks as a graduate assistant in 2008. As a full-time starter with Navy in 2005, Owens led an offense that generated a NCAA-leading 319.3 rushing yards per game. Owens received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Maryland in 2008.
Samuels will work with the 49ers offensive line. He spent his entire professional playing career as the starting left tackle for the Washington Redskins (2000-09) after being drafted as the third overall pick in 2000 out of the University of Alabama. With starts in all 141 regular season and three postseason appearances, he earned six trips to the Pro Bowl (2002-03, 2006-09) throughout his career and received the Ed Block Courage Award in 2002. After retiring from the NFL, Samuels returned to the Redskins as a minority coaching intern and worked with the offensive line. He then served as the offensive coordinator at Mattie T. Blount High School in Prichard, AL, in 2011. Samuels returned to the University of Alabama in 2012 and currently serves as an offensive line assistant under head coach Nick Saban. Samuels played all four years at Alabama (1996-1999) and was voted a unanimous All-American and won the Outland Trophy as a senior in 1999, which is presented annually to the nation’s top interior lineman. Samuels graduated from Alabama a degree in human environmental science in 2013.
Sapolu, who will work closely with the 49ers offensive line, has coached at the University of Nebraska since 2015. Roman is the son of former 49ers offensive lineman Jesse Sapolu, who was a part of four Super Bowl championship (XIX, XXIII, XXIV & XXIX) teams. Roman played four seasons of offensive line at Oregon State University (2010-14) and later began his coaching career as an associate offensive line coach as a senior after his season was cut short due to injury. He then joined the Cornhuskers staff as an offensive quality control coach working with the offensive line prior to becoming an offensive graduate assistant. Sapolu received his bachelor’s degree in cultural outreach at Oregon State, and went on to earn his master’s degree in higher education administration while at Nebraska.
Scott, who also will work with the 49ers offensive line, spent nine years in the NFL appearing in 71 regular season games (35 starts) and four postseason contests (three starts) along the offensive line with the Detroit Lions (2006-07), Buffalo Bills (2008-09), Pittsburgh Steelers (2010-11), Chicago Bears (2012-13) and Atlanta Falcons (2014). Following his playing career, he served as an offensive line intern with the Arizona Cardinals in 2016 and served as the run game coordinator and offensive line coach at the Episcopal School of Dallas in 2017. Scott, a four-year starter at the University of Texas, was a two-time unanimous All-American (2004-05), and was part of the 2005 National Championship team that defeated USC in in the Rose Bowl. He graduated from Texas with a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film with a minor in business administration.
Uzo-Diribe joins San Francisco’s Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship after working as a graduate assistant and recruiting intern with the University of Colorado since 2015. Uzo-Diribe, who will work with the defensive linemen, played four seasons (2010-13) at Colorado as a defensive end. He finished his career ranked second in school history in forced fumbles (10) and sixth in sacks (20.0). He briefly spent time with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2014 prior to the start of his coaching career. Uzo-Diribe graduated from Colorado with a bachelor’s degree in communications, as well as a master’s degree in learning sciences and human development.
Willis, who will work with the 49ers linebackers, joins the San Francisco staff with NFL experience as both a player and a coach. Willis, originally a fifth-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers in 1993, played seven seasons in the NFL with the Packers (1993-94), Philadelphia Eagles (1995-98) and Seattle Seahawks (1999). He appeared in 93 regular season games (44 starts) and totaled 313 tackles, 11 passes defensed, five forced fumbles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also saw action in four postseason contests (two starts) and added eight tackles and one forced fumble. In 2001, Willis played one season with the Birmingham Thunderbolts of the XFL and won the league’s defensive MVP award. He first began his coaching career as a defensive graduate assistant at Auburn University for three seasons (2001-03), before serving as linebackers coach at the University of Rhode Island (2004), Temple University (2005) and back at Auburn (2006-08). In 2009, he became assistant head coach/linebackers coach at the University of Alabama under head coach Nick Saban. Following his time inTuscaloosa, he served as assistant head coach/defensive coordinator at Texas Tech University in 2010, before coaching in the UFL with the Virginia Destroyers (2011-12) as the defensive coordinator/assistant head coach/linebackers coach. He spent the 2013-14 seasons at the University of Louisiana as defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach. Willis most recently served as a defensive assistant and linebackers coach with the New Orleans Saints from 2015-16. A three-year starter at Auburn University, Willis earned his bachelor’s degree in adult education in 2003.