The USS America docked at piers 30-32 in San Francisco for Fleet Week and received a special visit from 49ers players. The feeling of excitement and respect was mutual on the flight deck between members of the Navy, Marines and 49ers tight ends Garrett Celek and Garrett Celek and their teammates. After a special welcome from Robert Hall, Captain of the amphibious assault ship, players took part in football drills, photo opportunities with the Super Bowl trophies, ate dinner with the crew and toured the ship and its aircraft.
"Having the 49ers onboard is huge for our crew," expressed Captain Hall, "They've been working incredibly hard since we took custody of the ship, so having the 49ers take time out of their busy schedules to come hang out with our crew serves as a real reward."
After taking nearly five years to build, the USS America set out on her maiden voyage to California for the commissioning during Fleet Week. Measuring 844 feet long, this sort of "mini" aircraft carrier's mission will be to serve as the flagship of an expeditionary strike group or amphibious ready group.
The 49ers not only walked aboard anxious to run football drills with the troops and see the masterpiece of a ship, but to truly express their gratitude for the servicemen and women and thank them for their dedication to our country.
"It's always great to be able to recognize real heroes," said Senior Manager of 49ers Youth Football, Jared Muela, "As part of our league-wide initiatives through Hometown Huddle and Salute to Service, we felt it was important to give back and be a part of this memorable time for the USS America, and thank those who put it out on the line for us."
Following the surreal scene of running football drills on a flight deck, 49ers Joe Looney, Chris Borland and Fouimalo Fonoti joined their teammates and members of the USS America crew in the Mess Hall, or cafeteria, for dinner. The conversations consisted of 49ers asking about military roots and lifestyle, while the military personnel replied with an added inquiry about life in the NFL.
"This has been a great experience," reflected lineback Borland, "I think the troops were excited, as were we."
"I know our guys are really excited. There are a lot of helicopters on deck. They're over there in the cockpit cramming themselves in there like sardines, and really getting a kick out of the day," added Muela.
While all took the opportunity to explore the ship and its impressive aircraft and features, players could not help but channel their inner-Top Gun.
"Getting into the helicopter was pretty cool," said Borland, "I felt like Maverick or Goose from Top Gun. I think [49ers safety] Craig Dahl was humming the theme song and it felt pretty cool."
As the lights went down in the city, the 49ers departed the USS America. A newfound respect between NFL players and those who serve our country was created and will serve as the foundation for long lasting relationships and memories of a lifetime.