How players went from overlooked to game changers for 49ers

The Big Game

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The National Football League is more than helmets and pads — it’s a business.

And 49ers General Manager John Lynch is pretty good at this business.

How did a team with a 4-12 record just last year manage to make its way to Miami for Super Bowl LIV?

“Hard work and dedication,” cornerback Richard Sherman said.

It was a lot of proving people wrong, too, that kind of came naturally as the season progressed. But didn’t come easily.

Of course you’re going to have something to prove when you’re coming off a rough season, but even when they continued winning — there were still doubters.

There was always an excuse.

They looked good in preseason, but it’s just preseason.

They were 8-0 and the only undefeated team in the league before the Seahawks ended that with a close 27-24 overtime win. But even before that, people said San Francisco hadn’t faced any “tough” teams.

By the end of the season, the Niners clinched their first division title since 2012 with a 13-3 record. Two games later, they’re NFC Champs.

So now you have to ask — have the 49ers now proved they belong in the Super Bowl? What has changed people’s minds from the start of the season? The start of playoffs?

Obviously it comes with the game that there will always be doubters. That’s just a given. But it’s neat how players are using the doubt as motivation to push harder. The underdog mentality, as Sherman put it.

“A lot of these players are unheralded, undrafted or kind of thrown away. Guys that were considered busts, are cut several times, I can go down the list of guys who have been portrayed that way,” Sherman said. “You got Raheem (Mostert), (Arik) Armstead — who people were saying just last year ‘why are we picking up his option?’ — but now it’s pretty obvious why they’re picking up his option and pretty obvious why John did what he did. But everybody’s questioning it.”

Mostert is a name we’ve heard a lot lately. The running back broke all kinds of NFL Playoff records in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. He scored all of the 49ers four touchdowns and rushed for 220 yards.

But what’s even more incredible is the story behind it.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 19: Raheem Mostert #31 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates with the George Halas Trophy while holding his son, Gunnar, after winning the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers beat the Packers 37-20. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

After going undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft, Mostert signed as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. In a matter of a year, he was signed and cut from six teams before landing in San Francisco in the fall of 2016.

And now, more than three years later, he is making history in such a special way.

That’s kind of been the theme with this 49ers team all season — having each other’s backs and just playing football. Rookies and vets coming together to create something really dynamic.

Sherman continued name-dropping teammates that have been overlooked.

“Kwon Alexander, they’re saying ‘ah man, he’s just a guy who misses a ton of tackles’, ‘he’s injury prone’, ‘why did we pick him up?’ And now you see he’s on the heartbeats of this team. Jimmie Ward, I can keep going,” Sherman said as he did. “Laken Tomlinson, Mike Person. Jimmy (Garoppolo) — everyday they find something to criticize Jimmy about. They never criticize his looks though, which I can understand why.”

The crowd laughed as he continued on why this team is so unique.

“It just makes for a really fun team to play for because it’s just a bunch of guys who really don’t care. They just go out there, they fight for one another every single day and let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “Hard work and dedication is what it comes down to.”

It does, indeed. And it’ll come down to whose hard work and dedication is stronger on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

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