San Francisco 49ers safety Tashaun Gipson was nearing retirement following his age-31 season, where he played just 12 games with the Chicago Bears and hadn’t heard the phone throughout the whole offseason.
It turned from hoping to play in the NFL again to beginning conversations with his financial advisor and shifting his priorities into being the best father possible, while still training on the side in case of a possible opportunity.
Little did he know, that opportunity came calling as the San Francisco 49ers were in need of safety depth as veteran Jimmie Ward suffered a hamstring injury prior to training camp that kept him out the first few weeks of the season.
Gipson quickly took advantage of the opportunity, earning that starting safety spot and ultimately keeping it, even when Ward returned from injury, much to the latter’s chagrin.
“I tell you the truth man, [I] started talking to my financial advisor, I started my little league team, which, the Dallas Stars, we nice now,” Gipson reflected during media day at the Super Bowl. “Like, you know, I was, I was well cemented into being coach dad. You know, that was the role. I thought it looked good on me, man, and then the 49ers called. So I’ll be lying to you if I tell you that, I thought last year would have went how it went. You know, I was just home, I was training, staying ready. I wasn’t, you know, out of shape or anything like that, but I just didn’t know when the opportunity would call.
“About the time training camp came, two weeks in, three weeks in, I kind of just said, ‘man this is the reality’. You know, I was blessed enough to to play ten years in a league, which is an accomplishment in itself, and then I got that call man, and changed my life. I’m forever thankful to San Francisco and faithful for that.”
Fast-forward one year later and Gipson is not only appearing, but starting in his first career Super Bowl as the 49ers top safety, showing he can still play at a high level during his age-33 season.
“Honestly, this is just so surreal,” Gipson said about the feeling of being in the Super Bowl. “It’s cool, it’s crazy, man. Took me 12 years to get here. So man, I guess it’s kind of worth the wait, honestly, man. It’s just all soaking it in. Last night was pretty cool, being there [at the stadium].”
Gipson hasn’t been a “glitz and glamorous” player this season, instead doing his part and remaining consistent on a defense filled with marquee names such as Nick Bosa and Fred Warner.
However, that doesn’t mean his impact hasn’t been felt, as the 49ers likely wouldn’t have made the Super Bowl without the veteran’s contributions.
With the 49ers rallying in the NFC Championship Game, Gipson managed to make two of the defense’s biggest plays: forcing a fumble on Jahmyr Gibbs and breaking up a pass for Sam LaPorta, which both shifted the momentum of the game.
The Gibbs fumble came right after the 49ers cut the lead to one possession, and San Francisco quickly tied the game up after getting the ball deep in Lions territory.
Then, the LaPorta pass breakup came on a crucial second down during the following possession, serving as a drive-killer and allowing San Francisco to get the ball and ultimately score the go-ahead field goal that provided them their first lead in the game.
While the former play was highlighted more, the latter one was equally as impressive, as Gipson correctly read LaPorta’s in-breaking route from the weak side to jar the ball loose.
I asked Tashaun Gipson about his game changing PPU on Sam LaPorta in the NFC Championship game pic.twitter.com/5YNdA70AU7— Theo Ash (@TheoAshNFL) February 6, 2024
“It was an invert-Tampa 2. [LaPorta] was on the weak side,” Gipson revealed, via Theo Ash. “So, I’m carrying the vertical to the passing strength. My 2 breaks out. If he keeps high, I gotta carry him. He breaks out to the 7, so I get my eyes back on the quarterback. I feel him looking this way [as he] cocks back [and] Sam LaPorta’s coming right to me.
And it’s just one of those bang-bang moments where it happens so fast that you try not to put your head in it and obviously put your team in a bad situation. So, I tried to get my head out the way as possible and try to run through him and eject him from the ball and it came out.”
“It was just a cool play man. One of my favorite plays from the game.”
While Gipson hasn’t been a player in the spotlight, he’s consistently looked to fill his role at this stage in his career, but has come up in key moments time and time again as he did against the Lions.
“Throughout my whole career, man, it’s just, it’s not about the glitz and the glamorous, man,” Gipson said. “There’s guys that have bigger names and reputations and things like that, man. My thing is just: I want to be a consistent player. And, you know, people who know football, man, when you turn on the tape, man, of course, like, you got Nick Bosa on your team. man. Nobody care about Tashaun, man, right?
No, you have these guys, these all-world players, so sometimes you get lost in a shuffle, and those type of things really never fuel me or bother me at all, but you know, I appreciate you understanding and respecting a game, man. It’s 17 games. The best thing I could do at this point is just try to be as consistent as possible and do my job and let everything else take care of itself.”
Gipson has been on successful teams in the past, serving an integral role on the Jacksonville Jaguars’s elite defense back in 2017-18, as well as San Francisco’s NFC Championship Game squad from a season ago.
But, he’s never been a part of a Super Bowl in his career. Now, he’ll have the opportunity to suit up for the 49ers and fulfill a childhood dream of his when San Francisco takes on the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
“It means everything,” Gipson said about playing in the Super Bowl. “I think that when you dream about it as a little kid, when you’re watching Super Bowl Sunday and you’re with your parents and you’re eating your pizza and you’re watching it.”
“The thing that stands out to me is the first kickoff, all of the lights, how bright they are, to be a part of a moment like this, man, to be so close to being a champion, everybody knows you cement yourself in history with a win man. Everybody’s life change, you know, and I think that that’s the coolest part about this is this is a kid’s game man and it’s the biggest moment, biggest event in the world in my opinion, so to be a part of it is so humbling and I’m thankful for it.”