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Robert Saleh left the money for his passion

A fun read by Joe Fann highlights the defensive coordinator’s return to football.

I believe it was my father who used to tell me, “To get anywhere, you need to start by eating [site decorum] and learn to like the taste of it.”

That pretty much describes 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in a nutshell. Beginning in the finance industry and destined for plenty of money, Saleh felt incomplete and left everything to pursue a career in football. Anyone who threw the guarantees away just to try and be happy with their life should know exactly what this is like: it’s dark, ambiguous, and has no light at the end of the tunnel. At least not immediately.

Obviously, there’s a lot to like about Robert Saleh’s story. A year ago, SI’s Robert Klemko took a look at Saleh’s move into football. This year, reporter Joe Fann wrote an incredible piece taking a deeper dive into how Saleh became the coach he is. He described the hard work Saleh had to go through just to get an interview to be the defensive coordinator at San Francisco. What’s more interesting however is how Saleh had a cushy job out of college plenty of people would want, but he wasn’t happy.

Saleh knew he wasn’t being fulfilled, though. The money was great, sure, but life as a corporate lender didn’t provide much else for a 22-year-old fresh into the workforce. Saleh recalled how his father, Sam, faced a similar conundrum back in his youth. Sam played college football at Eastern Michigan and received an offer to join the school’s coaching staff following graduation. Instead, Sam went back to Dearborn to join the family business. It’s a decision that paid off financially, but Saleh shared that his father always felt a degree of regret for not pursuing coaching as a career.

It took 9/11 to give Saleh a wakeup call to ditch the finance business and start coaching as a quality control coach—and there was no stability in any of it. It all worked out in the end, but that journey to get to where you want can be arduous and frustrating, especially when you’re only making $5 a day like Saleh was until he finally got his shot in Seattle.

For many of us, pursuing what makes us happy requires a lot of sacrifice of the stability. It’s probably why Saleh’s story can resonate well. Whether it does or it doesn’t, definitely head over to to check it out, it’s a great read.