The 49ers awarded $17,000 in grants to 20 Bay Area high school football programs Wednesday afternoon as they hosted an award ceremony for the winners of the 2010 49ers High School Player of the Week and Charlie Wedemeyer Coach of the Week awards at the 49ers facility in Santa Clara. The purpose of the event was to celebrate and recognize the outstanding efforts of Bay Area high school football programs in promoting academic and athletic success.
The 49ers also revealed their Coach of the Year winner, Palo Alto's Earl Thomas.
For more than 10 years the 49ers have taken part in the NFL's Coach of the Week program, designed to aid and promote youth football and give high school coaches the recognition they deserve. Each week during the high school football season, the 49ers selected one football coach as the Charlie Wedemeyer Coach of the Week and one student-athlete who successfully balanced sports and academics as the High School Player of the Week. Wednesday's event recognized each of the winners with a luncheon at the 49ers Café and the opportunity to watch an hour of a closed practice session, after which 49ers interim coach Jim Tomsula presented each of the winners with their awards.
"From our ownership to our coaching staff and our players, this award is something that our organization really embraces," said Jared Muela, 49ers youth football coordinator. "It's giving back to kids who are making a difference in our community, and it's congratulating the coaches who helped those kids succeed as well.
"It's a good way to put money back into the football programs at a time when physical education and extracurricular sports are really taking a hit, and support the importance of what the coaches do, which is help create responsible young men through the game of football."
The 49ers named their Coach of the Year from the weekly winners, in selecting Thomas. Thomas exemplified each of the qualities of an inspirational leader as he brought his team to a section-winning season and bowl appearance. Assistant coach Steve Foug accepted the award for Thomas, who was unable to attend the ceremony.
"I've been lucky enough to work with Earl for the past 15 years," Foug said. "He has such tremendous strengths, especially in being able to read people very well, and has taught his coaching staff the importance of knowing that every student athlete needs to be treated as an individual and that the best possible thing you can do is put kids in a situation to succeed. It's something we can build a program with.
"The grant from the 49ers is something that we can use to improve our practice facilities and equipment and get younger kids in the community excited about playing football and being a part of a team sport like this, and continuing to make an impact on the local youth."
The Charlie Wedemeyer Coach of the Week Award is named in memory of Los Gatos High School head coach Charlie Wedemeyer, who recently passed away after a 32 year battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. The encouraging example that Coach Wedemeyer set is an inspiration not only to coaches, but to the Bay Area community as a whole. Lucy Wedemeyer, the late coach's wife, spoke to each of the coaches and players and presented them with a copy of Charlie's autobiography and mini stress footballs.
"It's more than an honor to have this award be in Coach Charlie Wedemeyer's name," she said. "It's a privilege to know that his name and his legacy can be utilized in a way to encourage others. High school coaches really make a difference in young men's lives, and I think it's tremendous that the 49er family wants to be that encourager and part of the community. Coming together as a team and being there for each other is what it's all about."
Football programs of each of the coaches recognized by the 49ers for their weekly efforts received $1,000 from the 49ers Foundation for their football programs, and Thomas was given an additional $2,000 for the Palo Alto program.
Each of the 49ers High School Player of the Week winners also received a grant in the amount of $500, given to the student-athlete's football program on their behalf. Each winner received a 49ers hat embroidered with "Player of the Week," a 49ers t-shirt, a certificate signed by Tomsula, two tickets to a 49ers home game and recognition on 49ers.com and in the GAMEDAY Program. During the ceremony each player also accepted an inscribed football recognizing their achievement.
Charlie Wedemeyer Coach of the Week award winners:Patrick Walsh, Serra
Ako Poti, Jefferson
Jason Seli, Carlmont
Matt Kiesle, Piedmont Hills
Mark Turner, El Camino
Doug Morris, SLV
John Philipopoulos, Burlingame
Earl Hansen, Palo Alto
Kevin Collins, Lincoln
Dan Navarro, Mountain View
High School Player of the Week award winners:Mitch Ravizza, Willow Glen
Chris Forbes, Terra Nova
Steven Bentley, Casa Grande
Quincy Nelson, Galileo Academy of Science and Technology
Chris Guengerich, Saratoga
Ronald Saxton, Seaside
Sam Falkenhagen, Menlo-Atherton
Alex Kamara, Westmont
Scott Brasil, Mt. Pleasant
Roberto Gonzalez, Overfelt
In addition the 49ers honored Marin Catholic coach Ken Peralta at the ceremony, last year's Coach of the Year selection and 2010 Don Shula Award nominee. The Don Shula award is a National Football League award, created this year to honor exemplary football coaches at all levels who display the integrity, achievement, and leadership demonstrated by the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula. Each NFL team is asked to submit one nominee who serves as a teacher and mentor, positively influencing the lives of players on and off the field, displays great character and integrity, demonstrates inspirational leadership and a commitment to the community at-large, and achieves on-field success.
"To be nominated by the 49ers is really an honor for me," Peralta said. "Besides the accolades football-wise, Don Shula was a man of great character. I think coaching is a great way to make young people responsible, good people. That's why I do it. I've been around the game a little bit and I look back on all of the great kids that I got a chance to be around and my nomination is a tribute to them and the coaches I've worked with. It's such a team thing. Our philosophy is based on a team concept of having great character in school, with our families, in our communities and in life. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about."