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THE FINAL 49: 

During the final 49 weeks until Kickoff 2013, we will take a moment each week to look at various aspects of the football program.

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Community Ties

Dec. 22, 2012

By Tom Whitestone

Earlier this week, offensive line coach Phil Ratliff and three freshmen visited Weddington Hills Elementary School.  A couple weeks prior, several football players visited McAllister Elementary to participate in McAllister Muscle and engage third-to-fifth graders in a physical activity.

For most 49ers athletic teams, participating in the community is nothing new.  Programs seek out activities.  Some come up with multiple projects to be a part of.  Others devote themselves to one project in particular. 

The 49ers' Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) hosts an annual 9-11 Memorial Blood Drive.   Several teams volunteer at the Fall Stroll for Epilepsy, which has been hosted on-campus the last several years.  This year, a few teams, especially baseball and including softball and football, helped out with the aptly named Miracle League.

October is all about volleyball's charge to headline the nation's Dig Pink program.  As the holidays approach, the 49ers team up with the Marine Corps in an annual Toys for Tots Drive and this year, the 49ers golf team adopted a family.

Earlier in December, we saw men's basketball players assembling stockings to send to the orphanage they had visited in the Bahamas. 

On top of that, there are any number of clinics, visits to hospitals and readings at elementary schools, year round.

Last year, 49ers student-athletes donated over 2500 hours to various organizations.

And certainly head coach Brad Lambert has been no stranger in the community.  In addition to the many speaking engagements, he's helped build a playground, attended a moving MDA event, and recently handed out a trophy to a Pop Warner team at the Bronko Nagurski Awards - all of which is a mere sampling of his many community ties.

But now, his team and players are getting a chance to participate in the community.

And the cool thing is that as Ratliff was driving back to campus after the trip to Weddington Hills, the players thanked him.  They really appreciated the opportunity.

Sure, the fifth graders, who got a break from regular classroom activities, perhaps learned a lesson or two and may have picked up an autograph, said thank you.  I'm sure the thanks were many.  Someone comes to visit you - to brighten your day - to share some thoughts and knowledge - you're going to thank them. 

The football freshmen, who took an afternoon away from a welcome holiday break, made the drive through holiday traffic and found themselves back at a school just days after completing their first college semester, were saying thank you, too? 

As these football players figured out - often times those that make the trip realize greater benefits than those they visit.

Ratliff said he shared with the players that if they made a difference in just one kid's life, the trip was beyond worth it.

To be honest, regardless of the impact on the fifth graders, it was well worth it - simply because of the impact on the football freshmen.

During this season of giving, many understand that it is better to give than to receive. 

Some of the 49ers football players got to live that, recently, and learned firsthand, to take that message to heart.

And while it is abundantly appropriate to this holiday season, that's a present that can be opened any day of the year.


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