MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Teams are normally pretty locked in about an hour before any game, nevermind a Super Bowl. But on Sunday night the players and coaches on the 49ers and Chiefs took a moment to pause and reflect on the loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash a week ago.
After they finished their warmups, the squads stood in two lines facing each other — along the 24-yard line to honor Bryant’s number 24 jersey — and paused to remember the basketball star. Then they headed back into their locker rooms for the last time before their official introductions just prior to the game.
The death of Bryant and what he meant to the participants in this year’s Super Bowl has been an overarching theme throughout the week, beginning with many heartfelt tributes on Opening Night on Monday. Sunday’s moment of silence was the first opportunity for the league to recognize Bryant in unison.
Several players had messages in honor of Bryant written or printed on their cleats during warmups. Niners cornerback Richard Sherman showed up for the Super Bowl in a Bryant jersey and appeared on Fox’s pregame show to read a poem called “Dear Football.” It largely copied “Dear Basketball,” the poem Bryant wrote in 2015 to announce that he was playing his final season.
Shanahan the ballboy
Kyle Shanahan had the run of the 49ers sideline on Sunday as coach of San Francisco. But his first Super Bowl experience with the team was a lot more limited.
“I definitely wasn’t allowed to cross the 30 [yard line],” Shanahan recalled this week about his job as a ballboy for the 49ers when his father Mike was the offensive coordinator for the 1994 team. “I had to stay with most of the media guys. I was always that annoying kid jumping in front of all the media people trying to do their job and blocking their perfect shot and they would tell me to get the heck out of the way.”
Shanahan said it was a wonderland for a 16-year-old.
“Just being able to wander around the locker room and try to collect anybody’s gloves who left them around, anything like that,” he said. “Players were always such nice and good people to me at a young age, and I see our guys doing the same to other people.”
That includes his own son, who was at practice on Friday.
“That’s something I’ve felt very fortunate to have growing up and it’s been cool to give my kids the same,” he said.
Madison vs. Welker II
In Super Bowl XLII, Sam Madison faced Wes Welker. In Super Bowl LIV, Sam Madison’s players faced Wes Welker’s players. Madison, the former Giants cornerback, is the cornerbacks coach for the Chiefs and Welker, the former Patriots receiver, is the receivers coach for the 49ers.
Madison had two tackles and knocked away a Tom Brady pass in the Giants’ Super Bowl upset of the Patriots. But he said his overriding memory of the game has nothing to do with any particular play.
“What I remember is the confetti falling down and it was for us,” he said. “To have an opportunity to get that confetti and then now you sit there and you feel it and you’re looking, and it’s like, ‘This is really for us.’ You put in a whole lot of work and a lot of dedication, and you finally arrive and you’ve made it. That was the fun part.”
And that’s exactly what he told his players coming into this game.
Madison won a Super Bowl with the Giants, but he’s better known as a Dolphin. After finishing his career with Big Blue, Madison even returned and worked for the Dolphins in several capacities, including broadcasting. Interestingly, the Chiefs used the locker room at Hard Rock Stadium in which Madison suited up many times as a player.
“It was bittersweet with the teams that we had,” Madison said of his Miami ties. “We always fell short. This is any player’s dream, to play in a Super Bowl. Some guys have never been to the playoffs. You just work your tail off and then however it comes, it comes for you. It just so happens that this will be my second go-round. One as a coach now, and one as a player, and being able to win one as a player. Hopefully, I’ll be able to win another as a coach.”
Mathieu amazed by his QB’s run
Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu finished his seventh NFL season on Sunday, and before the game he put in perspective Patrick Mahomes’ incredible run touchdown run in the AFC Championship against the Titans when he avoided the rush, faked out some defenders, ran down the sideline, broke tackles and spun into the end zone.
Mathieu said it was one of the top three plays he’s ever seen “in person.” The former Arizona Cardinal ranked it up there with a catch he saw former teammate Larry Fitzgerald make against the Packers in the playoffs, and “a backhanded interception” by another former teammate Patrick Peterson.
“I’d probably put that run up there with those plays,” Mathieu said. “He just has that special ability. I don’t think any moment is too big for him. He’s accepted all of this.”
Mahomes talks baseball
Patrick Mahomes spoke a lot about his baseball background and how growing up the son of a former Major League player helped him become a professional athlete.
Mahomes, whose father Pat Mahomes pitched for the Mets and five other MLB teams, was drafted by the Tigers in the 37th round in 2014. It was well known he was gravitating toward football or he would have gone much higher. But he took the lessons from baseball and applied them to football.
“The biggest thing with baseball is you have to find ways to win,” Mahomes said. “You have to find ways to battle, you have to find ways to keep your positive mindset when you might be not doing too well. You’re going to fail more times than not in baseball and you can still be a great player doing that. You get three hits in 10 at bats and you’re an All-Star.
“Having that mindset of never being down on yourself and finding ways to go out there and have success even when things are not going the right way has helped me in football.”