GI-Native, 49ers Star Tom Rathman visits alma mater, hands off commemorative football

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Grand Island-native turned NFL star Tom Rathman paid a visit to the Tri-Cities Thursday, and he had a very powerful message to deliver to high school athletes at Grand Island Senior High School, all as a part of the 50-year celebration of the Super Bowl.

Rathman, who played in two and coached in one Super Bowl, presented a gold football to the Island football team during a full school pep rally.

It's to signify that the path to the NFL starts on high school practice fields and in locker rooms, and his message to the current players proved to be fairly simple.

"My philosophy is, when you get that chance, take advantage of it," Rathman said. "You know, have a great foundation with your work ethic. Know who you are, and you want to be the same person every day."

While Rathman enjoyed being in his old stomping grounds, he's still very much a part of the NFL. Currently, he's the running backs coach for the San Francisco 49ers, which means he's in the process of getting used to first-year coach Chip Kelly.

"Well, we're still going through it right now," Rathman said. "We've got the players coming in April 4th, so we'll start doing some of the installs then. It's an up-tempo offense, and you try to get an advantage on the defense, and the bottom line is that it doesn't matter which offense you run - the bottom line is going out and executing the offense."

Rathman was well known throughout the state of Nebraska before his leap to the NFL and for good reason.

After his playing days wrapped up at Grand Island in the early 1980's, he signed to play fullback for the Nebraska football team, which he did so from 1981-1985.

Then it was off to the NFL for the much sought-after power back. The San Francisco 49ers picked him up and held onto him through the glory years, where the 49ers won two Super Bowls.

Rathman wrapped up his playing career with one season at the Oakland Raiders.

He is not the running backs coach for the 49ers under first-year coach Chip Kelly.