THE FINAL 49:  The First Fall

By Tom Whitestone

Fall is here, that's for sure.  Leaves are turning.  Mornings are colder.  Shadows grow longer.

Believe it or not, this time next year, the 49ers will be preparing for Game #7 - on the road at Charleston Southern (Oct. 26).  Charlotte will have already played six games, five at home.  The historic season will be underway.

After all the firsts we have celebrated:  the first recruiting class, the first workouts, the first time they put on the helmet  -  it's hard to believe that a year from now we will have moved past those firsts and onto seconds, thirds and fourths.

Sure, there are still plenty in front of us:  the first time inside the stadium walls, the first spring game and of course the historic first, coming on August 31st.

That will lead to the first kick off, the first tackle and the first touchdown.

And these guys out here on this field, busting it at practice on these colorful, cooler and shadowed days, dream of being a part of those firsts, which still seem so very far away but are getting closer by the minute.

Right now, with the team's initial workouts nearly two months old, this group of guys is well beyond so many firsts - but still eyeing several more.

Who will rush for the first first down?  Who will record the first sack?  Who will catch the first pass?  Who will recover the first fumble?

About 80 players are out at practice hoping to be a key figure in 49ers history.

Of course, we know they already are.

The firsts these players have been a part of may not be recorded by statistics.  I mean, I don't ever recall seeing mention of the rollcall of players who attended the first team meeting in any record book.

But these are those guys.  These are the first to set foot in the locker room.  These are the first to run out to the practice fields.  And these are the first to pull that gear on -- to sprint, to dive, to sweat for the green and white.

Years from now, people will think of 2013 as the inaugural season.  People will grab a 2013 game program to remember the first team.  People will think of the game days in autumn as the first fall. 

But people will be wrong.

For all those vital firsts that will come next year - there's one big second.

Because, no matter what the record books will say.  No matter how much pomp and circumstance accompanies the inaugural game.  No matter how we crave Kickoff 2013.

For Charlotte 49ers football - this is the first fall.