We at 49ers.com were compiling this celebrities photo gallery last month when the picture you see atop this page appeared in an Associate Press image search.
Our curiosity spiked, so we walked down the hall. After all, San Francisco 49ers vice president of football affairs Keena Turner is in the frame. He’s the smiling linebacker on that 1988, Super Bowl-winning team, donning sunglasses and standing to Jackson’s left.
“I was just a huge fan,” Turner said, “as all of us were back then.
“Michael was very shy. A lot of what you perceived was true. He told us he wasn’t a big sports fan like his brothers.”
The 49ers were in England to play a July 31 preseason game versus the Miami Dolphins. On the Tuesday beforehand, they caravanned to Cardiff Arms Park in Wales, where Jackson was performing as part of his solo debut Bad World tour.
Getting tickets wasn’t easy, but the 49ers caught a break. They were staying at the same hotel as the pop star, and some players, including cornerback
“You knew which room was Michael’s because there was a big poster of Mickey Mouse on his door,” Turner said, “and he had a security guard out front.”
One day early in the week, Turner stopped by and asked if he and his teammates could meet Jackson. The guard said Turner could write a note for Jackson’s longtime manager, Bob Jones. After a chance meeting in the lobby, Jones did Turner one better.
“I had 20 concert tickets and everyone was my friend, so at the end of the day, I was Don King,” Turner joked. “I picked all my guys and their wives and girlfriends, and then we had to figure out a way to get to the stadium. Bob got us a sleeper bus and the best seats in the house, on a raised platform, midfield from the stage.”
Jones befriended Turner, taking him to a Prince concert the next night and shipping him Jackson memorabilia. But none of the 49ers ever got too close to Jackson, who passed away in 2009 and had his first posthumous album slated for release Monday.
“‘I wish he was one of the guys’” Turner remembered Jones saying. “‘He was always the guy even when he was young.’”
Still, Turner called meeting the musician a quarter century ago one of his favorite road-trip memories. He shared it with the teammates pictured: Jeff Fuller, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig, Marvin Lewis, Carlton Williamson, Eric Wright, Charles Haley, Mike Wilson and Dwaine Board.