I was lucky enough to meet Ricky Helton at the 49ers home game against the Atlanta Falcons last December. Although we had never met or even spoken to each other before, he invited my wife and I into his tailgate in Green Lot 1, along with the rest of the 49ersHub writers, and filled us full of the best Al Pastor tacos I have had north of the border. After the game, he ushered us over while we walked out of the stadium for some more, making sure we had our fill and tossed an extra onto my plate, just for good measure. For me, it felt like a family moment, and for Ricky, that’s exactly what it is. I saw this same interaction with lots of people coming in and out of his tailgate.
Growing up in Modesto, California, Ricky was always a 49ers fan. It was passed down from his grandfather, father, and stepfather, but from meeting him, I can’t say I’d expect him anywhere else. His favorite 49er memory was watching the 49ers NFC Championship victory over the Dallas Cowboys in 1982. He told me, “I vividly remember 'The Catch.' I remember watching that game off and on throughout the day...it was just a moment, a family moment, you know what I mean? Even my brother’s fond of that moment, and he’s a Cowboys fan.”
Explaining his introduction to 49er fandom Ricky said, “Well, my dad was a 49er fan, [and] my stepdad was a 49er fan, so it was kinda basically engraved at an early age, and it was really easy being a 49ers fan on top of it during my childhood because we were rollin'.”
Reminiscing about the olden days of the 1980s and '90s, Ricky said, “I was 100 percent dependent on publications for anything 49er related. I remember; I think it was Pro Football Magazine or something. That was pre-fantasy football. You had all the stars. You had all the draft picks. I loved that magazine.”
At the first San Francisco 49er game he was able to attend, he actually was working security. Because of his post, he was able to meet Carmen Policy, who he said was the most polite and respectful guy, thanking him for being there to help keep his family safe. That sense of family in connection with the 49ers organization is something that kept coming up in our conversation.
Talking about the atmosphere at games and outside of games, Ricky said, “It’s just a big melting pot, you know, 'cause a lot of these people I’ve seen at Candlestick and on...I met people from [the team’s Q-and-As with season ticket holders after general manager Trent Baalke was fired]...I’ve got families upon families I’ve met...so many people that are really close in my inner circle are from 49ers games."
Ricky began attending 49ers games regularly around 2003, and it really started with a friend hooking him up with his tickets when he couldn’t make it. “I went to a lot of games with my son to Candlestick,” he recalled. Ricky could spend hours talking about games such as Frank Gore’s 220-yard game, and other moments from 49ers history that he had been lucky enough to experience.
He has also made friends through his work at Niners Nation. That’s where fellow 49ersHub writer Marcos Sanz met him virtually, while also doing graphic design work for Niners Nation. Their first face-to-face meeting was at that 49ers- Falcons game, and in Sanz' words, they “connected almost instantly. I spent time with him, his wife and more wonderful people. They are wonderful people and hosts.”
When talking about his favorite memories of the the organization, Ricky said that besides "The Catch," this last season was his favorite memory. “This last year was magical. Just 'cause you know, you see it. You watch these guys on the field, just being able to be right there and watch these guys. This group of players, a lot of people can see [George] Kittle’s personality, but this group, with the way this group is led, it’s from the top down. Al Guido, Robert Alberino Jr., John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan, all the guys. Just watching these guys [the players] on and off the field, giving their time to the fans and the community through the 49ers foundation. It’s just family.”
Now he’s sharing the great experience of Sunday’s at Levi’s Stadium with his daughter, a huge 49er fan. “She’s about as die hard as you get. They call her ‘Niner’ on her soccer team.” That’s what happens when you’re a fan of the 49ers; the Faithful grow your family, and your family grows the Faithful.
Connect with Ricky and check out his incredible photography on: Twitter: @RickyHelton1
Facebook: Ricky Helton Photography
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