49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead is outwardly one of the quiet players on the team. He is generally soft spoken in front of the media, but doesn't shy away from answering questions. Recently, when he held his first annual charity gala in his hometown of Sacramento he showed a different side of himself — one that is a very articulate public speaker, who is very passionate about his cause of equal opportunity education for children in economically-challenged areas.
According to Joe Cattolico, Armstead has been like this as long as he’s known him. Cattolico was Armstead’s football coach at Pleasant Grove High School as well as his U.S. History teacher. Because of what kind of person Armstead is, Cattolico never even considered it a question that he would come help coach Arik’s free youth football camp at Leataata Floyd Elementary School during the offseason.
When asked what kind of person Armstead was in high school, Cattolico couldn’t have been more proud. He said the best quality that Armstead possesses is that of lifting those around him up.
The thing about Arik that always sticks out for me is, besides all of the tremendous football ability, Arik was the kind of kid who always made everybody around him feel better about themselves and that isn’t always the case with really, really talented athletes. Arik was everybody’s friend, everyone could talk to him, Arik has a lot of interests outside of football, like you see here, and so it’s spectacular. As great of a football player he is, he’s an even better person. That’s what stands out to me about Arik.
Cattolico had to share Armstead with the basketball team and he was just happy to get to have him around as much as he did. He is close to the Armstead family, having also coached his older brother Armond in football as well. He reasons that his family is what has made him into the person he is today.
He was a young person who elevated you in the football sense but I had him in U.S. History class and he elevated the U.S. History class. He was interested in the subject matter, he was involved in discussions and in making other students feel better about what they had to say.
Cattalico explains the most impressive part about Armstead’s development since high school:
This, his understanding. A lot of guys give back and do a great job doing football camps and give back through football that way but Arik is mature beyond his years. He’s using football to give back on a broader platform. He’s using it as a vehicle for addressing issues in our society, areas where he feels like he can make positive changes as a society and a community. For someone of his relatively young amount of years on the planet, this is very special because you don’t see that as frequently as you should.
One of the more comedic memories that Cattolico has of Armstead is how he left his mark at Pleasant Grove High School:
There’s a desk that Arik sat in that actually bent. The bar bent when he sat in it and so we had that desk for years and we would tell people in the history department, “That’s the Arik Armstead desk,” because he had accidentally bent the desk by kind of putting a little elbow on it.
Cattloico also shared how respectful Armstead was in this one particular case:
I’m 6’4 and I’m usually the tallest person in my classroom and so Arik was in my classroom in the 11th grade. The rule that I had in class is that Arik wasn’t allowed to stand up in class. If he had a question he wasn’t allowed to come over to me and ask me a question because he makes me look short. If he had a question I told him “You raise your hand and I’ll come talk to you at your desk so that I feel like I’m still the tallest guy in the room.” He was always really good about that. He understood that I wanted to hold onto that one little thing.
He’s one of those guys who emanates a light from himself that just makes everyone around him better and feel better about themselves.