Image Credit: Scott Young
It’s not often that 49ers left tackle Joe Staley does not have a smile on his face, but after coming back on stage for the second time on Wednesday night’s State of the Franchise event, it was as if a weight had been taken off his shoulders.
“I’m not leaving! I’m not leaving!” exclaimed Staley, bringing back his signature energy.
“Since the moment you’ve drafted me in 2007, it’s been my absolute honor to play for this franchise and I want nothing more than to play my entire career here with one franchise.”
Staley was speaking directly to 49ers CEO Jed York, while simultaneously speaking to every fan in attendance and watching at home.
Through the ups and downs of the previous 10 seasons, there have been three constants: death, taxes, and Joe Staley’s magnetic personality and smile. Sometimes it didn’t matter what happened on the field, Joe was always there to be that safety blanket.
As Jed York said just before Joe made his announcement, Staley has already joined an unprecedented club within the organization (and around the NFL) of guys who have been with the team for over 10 years, and with this new extension, will get him to an even greater milestone of 15 years.
“It was a big deal for me, something I was really proud of, to be able to finish my career in one spot was one of my goals, was just to play for this one franchise and make a career out of this.”
Staley’s accomplishments aren’t lost amongst his teammates either. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner was one of the first players to figure out that the extension was coming after seeing Joe’s family in the cafeteria one day. He also had nothing but praise for Staley and the longevity he carries heading into the twilight of his career.
“It’s very impressive. I mean, like you said, Joe is 35 and I mean sometimes in the offseason workouts he’s looking better than some of the young guys, and it’s great to see that, and I’m glad that the coaches see that. He’s a trustworthy guy, a veteran guy who’s proven himself through the years and I’m very happy for him and his family.”
As Buckner stated, it can be rare for a player to be loved and respected by not only his peers but the coaching staff and front office as well.
“Yeah just, it feels so good, it always does when you reach an agreement with a player who can help your organization but this one, I think, has another little added, level of appreciation, from Jed, from myself, from Kyle, because it’s really a unique deal to be able to play your career in one spot these days. I was close, but I didn’t ever get that chance to do that, and to be able to come to an agreement with Joe and know that that’s the likelihood, I think that’s an awesome deal, and Joe earned this deal.”
You can count the number of players with Joe Staley’s level of integrity on a single hand, and the likelihood that we will see another NFL player who measures up to him in any sense is slim to none. But Staley said it best before leaving the stage. It’s not about him. It’s not about the team. It’s about one thing:
“I want to win a championship trophy.”
To paraphrase perennial good luck charm to the 49ers, Huey Lewis and the News:
They say the heart of the Niners is Staley,
And from what we can see, I believe them.
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