49ers' connection to past greats has ushered in new era of glory days

Brian Witt
NBC Sports BayArea

The 49ers might be beginning a new era of glory days, but they aren't leaving the previous ones behind.

Since Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took over as head coach and general manager prior to the 2017 season, they've placed an emphasis on binding the current 49ers to some of the all-time greats that came before them.

Whether it's Jerry Rice, Steve Young or Jesse Sapolu, there's no shortage of Hall of Famers from which the current generation of players can glean knowledge and advice.

"We're back at it now," Young told ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "Kyle and John have reembraced the history. It's an embracing of the past. I think they can use it as a tool and sometimes a weapon. I feel completely affiliated with these 49ers. For many years, I didn't. ... This is certainly recognizing that we're gonna build off of our history, which is smart. We should."

When Lynch and Shanahan arrived, the franchise's relationship with past alumni wasn't what it is now. Shanahan immediately went about addressing that failure and was influenced due to his prior history with the 49ers, having served as San Francisco's ball boy as a kid.

"I just know how excited I was to have the opportunity to be the head coach of the Niners," Shanahan said. "I just look at that differently than a lot of other teams. I look at the Niners, just from when I was growing up, the way people look at the Yankees. Or the teams that have been around, those marquee franchise teams. I always felt that way about the Niners and that's why it was cool to be here, and I want everyone else to feel that way."

Lynch never played for the 49ers, but went to college at nearby Stanford where he developed a close relationship with legendary coach Bill Walsh. That exposure influenced him to use reminders of the past to help improve the franchise's future.

"We all practiced in the NFL the way the Niners did," Lynch described. "Everybody did. That was the standard. So I think that drew us to the place, so then you get here and say, 'How are we going to be successful?' And what a great resource to have that here. So it just naturally happened because we both thought, 'Why wouldn't we?'"

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It's been 25 years since the 49ers last won the Super Bowl. If they manage to end that drought and add a sixth Lombardi Trophy to the museum at Levi's Stadium, some of the critical members of the franchise's prior championships certainly will have played a part.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers playoff coverage with special editions of "49ers Central" all week (6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Wednesday and Friday)

Also tune in at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for "49ers Pregame Live," with Laura Britt, Jeff Garcia, Donte Whitner, Ian Williams and Grant Liffmann previewing the NFC Championship Game against the Packers. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.

49ers' connection to past greats has ushered in new era of glory days originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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