SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The party was raging in the 49ers’ locker room at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday night.
They’d just beaten the Packers, 37-20, to advance to the Super Bowl. Players passed the George Halas Trophy around, posing with it for selfies. Music blasted while other players danced in the middle of the room. Screams and hugs and smiles swirled through the space the same way the confetti shot from cannons had just a little earlier when they were out on the field.
It was total joy and euphoria … for most of them.
Because while just about everybody in the locker room was at 100 percent elation, along one of the side walls at a locker overlooking the festivities stood the team’s third-string quarterback, C.J. Beathard.
He wasn’t thinking about the playoff run, the turnaround of the franchise or the upcoming matchup with the Chiefs. He was thinking about his brother.
”It’s been the toughest month of my life,” he said, his eyes tearing up.
Beathard’s brother Clay and another college student were stabbed and killed outside a bar in Nashville in the early hours of Dec. 21. Clay, who was the quarterback for Long Island University’s football team, was 22. A suspect was taken into custody a few days later.
“Losing my brother, it’s a pain that you never want anybody to feel,” Beathard said as the celebration went on around him Sunday night. “It’s something that is with you every second of every day. People say it will get better. Right now, stuff like this, it brings some joy and happiness, but it’s one of those things that I know he would have loved to experience this.”
Beathard was inactive for the NFC Championship Game. He probably won’t be in uniform for the Super Bowl, either. But he has a chance to win a Super Bowl ring, and that’s something the 49ers would like for him and his family.
“C.J. has been a warrior, man,” fellow backup quarterback Nick Mullens said. “The sadness and pain that he and his family have gone through in the past month, for him to come back and just work like a pro every day and be the same teammate he’s always been, I have so much respect for C.J. The fact that we can continue this journey on to the Super Bowl, I hope that brings some happiness to his family. I know he’s hurting.”
Beathard said he knew the 49ers were a tight-knit organization, but it wasn’t until they embraced him the way they did after the tragedy that he truly understood what that meant.
“The way everyone responded on the team when this happened a month ago, it just really showed how close everybody was,” he said. “The support not only Kyle [Shanahan, the coach] and John [Lynch, the general manager] had for me through that whole process but my teammates, it’s just great … It’s been unreal.”
Beathard remembered his brother as a loving man of faith.
“He had the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever known,” he said. “You could know him for 10 seconds and you would say, ‘This guy is a good guy.’ He just loved everybody. He was a good kid and a good person. He would do anything for the people he loved, his friends, his family. He’s as loyal as it gets.
“He touched a lot of people in his short life.”
Beathard’s family was not in San Francisco for the championship game Sunday, but they plan to be in Miami for the Super Bowl, he said. They have quite a bit of experience with those games. His grandfather, Bobby Beathard, is a Hall of Fame general manager who won four rings.
Now C.J. is trying to win a fifth for the family. Certainly the most bittersweet of the bunch.
‘’It’s not gonna patch up any pain,” Beathard said. “But any time you see people you love experiencing some joy and happiness, that brings you some of it as well. And I love everybody on this team. I want this just as much as anybody else on this team.”