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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The story of Raheem Mostert resides in a Notes app document on his iPhone.
"I should show you this right now," the 49ers running back said, as he reached into his pocket to reveal the personal source of his motivation.
At the top of the screen are two words: "Cut dates."
Beneath it, a list of all of the teams who deemed him unworthy of a roster spot.
Philly — September 4th, 2015
Dolphins — October 13th, 2015
Baltimore — December 14th, 2015
Browns — September 4th, 2016
The New York Jets and Chicago Bears are included as well, but Mostert didn't bother to type the exact dates of his release from either club. It doesn't matter. What's written next is by far more important — and what illustrates the turning point of his career trajectory.
Picked up on:
49ers — 2016 (Present and here to stay)
I have a family to support
Don't want to be back on the street
Put soo much time into this to just not perform.
To understand the magnitude of Sunday, you must first understand what led Mostert to this very spot — here, in a quiet corner of a raucous locker room, in the aftermath of a resounding 49ers' victory he helped deliver.
The 27-year-old created this document in 2016, back when things seemed so uncertain, back when he was desperate for a team to believe in him. He admitted he updated the Notes app document at 9:43 a.m. on Jan. 14 — five days before he would unleash one of the most remarkable, unexpected and dominant playoff performances in NFL history.
Mostert became the only player in NFL playoff history to rush for at least 200 yards and four touchdowns as he powered San Francisco to a 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game and a Super Bowl LIV showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami.
But in the chaos of celebration — the pulsating bass of Compton rapper Roddy Ricch blasting through speakers and the throng of bodies clamoring to take pictures with the George Halas Trophy — Mostert took a moment to shed light on the dark days.
"Along my journey, I'm always going to have something in the back of my mind," he told Yahoo Sports.
As he spoke, his eyes scanned the words he had typed years ago.
"No matter what I'm going through from here on out, it's one of those things that I'm going to think about, process, and let that motivate me," he said, pointing to his iPhone screen.
He was the hero no one saw coming.
In the biggest game of his career, the running back known for his special-teams reliability repeatedly found wide-open lanes to sprint through. By the end of the first half, he had rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries, paving the way for what would be a thorough thrashing of a Packers team that appeared unmotivated to play until the second half.
As the confetti fell, Mostert held his 6-month-old son, Gunnar Grey, in his arms as he stood on the winner's stage.
This moment was a long time coming.
The type of thrill he couldn't even have imagined after being cut so many times.
"That's the moment I'm going to cherish forever," said Mostert, who set the record for most rushing yards (220) in a conference title game and came just 29 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's record for most rushing yards in a playoff game (248 on Jan. 4, 1986, against the Dallas Cowboys). "I love having my son everywhere I go. And for him to be able to have that opportunity to be on stage with me, after what I accomplished, after everything I've been through, I can't put it into words."
A year after the 49ers finished the regular season 4-12, and Kyle Shanahan and his staff was selected to coach the South team at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, they were now basking in the glow of being Super Bowl-bound. And their general manager John Lynch — the former safety-turned TV broadcaster-turned-NFL Executive of the Year — was able to reflect on a collective job well done.
Lynch leaned his head back and took a swig from a can of Bud Light as he held court in their boisterous locker room. He praised Shanahan as "a coach who's special." He credited team owner Jed York for being patient and committed to the rebuild plan that he and Shanahan devised together. And he lauded the players, a collection of "guys that compete every day."
Lynch also pinpointed the reason Mostert is so special.
"He can fly," the general manager said, while holding a black T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase, "Mobile to Miami" on the front. "It's crazy. He's got a running style, a cadence to him that I think people look at him on film and know he's fast, but they don't know how fast until they start playing. You always see people taking the wrong angle on him. It happens week in and week out. He runs kind of erect and for whatever reason, it doesn't look like [Chiefs speedster] Tyreek Hill or something. But he's that fast."
This marks the seventh Super Bowl appearance for the 49ers, who boast five championship titles. The last time they won it all was Super Bowl XXIX, when quarterback Steve Young earned MVP honors in a 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
The venue? Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.
Young, of course, was in the building on Sunday. As was fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. As was Shanahan's father, Mike, who was the 49ers' offensive coordinator in Super Bowl XXIX.
"You can tell they play for each other and they play hard," Mike Shanahan said of this current 49ers squad, shortly before greeting Young outside of the team's family lounge. "You can tell they care about each other."
How fitting it is, then, that an organization steeped in such a rich tradition of winning would be buoyed by the unlikeliest of stars when it mattered most.
"He was cut by six teams," Lynch said of Mostert. "That's nothing we did. He was here when we got here. And you don't let guys like that go."
But so many teams did.
After brief stints with the Eagles, Dolphins, Ravens, Browns, Jets and Bears, the running back considered giving up on football altogether. But his wife, Devon, convinced him not to give up on his dream.
So, on Sunday, amid the revelry, amid the club-like atmosphere in the home team's locker room, Mostert was again reminded of everything he had been through. And why he created that Notes app document in the first place.
"To let me know what I went through," he told Yahoo Sports.
Six teams, in all, who didn't think he was worthy of a roster spot.
Six times his football career took another detour.
But, in the end, the heartbreak was worth it.
"If you could pick the perfect people for what Kyle does, you'd pick the guys we got," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "Raheem's still playing special teams and he ran for 200 in the NFC championship. …And he's unheralded, but he's perfect for this scheme. He's perfectly built and designed to do what Kyle needs him to do. And for some people, another scheme may not be effective; he may be a regular Joe. But in this, he's one of the best backs in this league."
There were plenty of dark days along Mostert's journey, but there is one low point that sticks out above the rest, he admitted.
"The Jets," he replied, "because I was on practice squad and I thought I was going to get bumped up. But they released me after a week."
Asked what the team's explanation was for cutting him, Mostert smiled and shrugged his shoulders before walking off to celebrate with his brothers.
"Couldn't tell you," he said.
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