On the third day of training camp, the 49ers morning practice was closed to the public, but that didn't stop more than 100 kids from seeing all the hard-hitting action.
Youngsters from the Rec Connect at Gilman Park, Bayview Hunters Point YMCA, Fremont Youth Football and BAPS Charities watched practice at the team's Santa Clara practice facility as part of the Gatorade Junior Training Camp, an event run by the club's Youth Football program.
The free football clinic is one of many Youth Football initiatives the 49ers organization puts on throughout the year.
"We are seeking to inspire the kids by giving them the opportunity see, first hand, how much hard work 49ers players put into perfecting their game and the dedication it takes to make it to the NFL," Community Relations Director Joanne Pasternack said. "The plan is to get these kids motivated from seeing all the work the NFL players put in."
And Monday morning, that plan worked.
"I play football, and I try to work my hardest to be like them," said a young boy named DeShane, who was one of 60 kids at the camp from Bayview Hunters Point YMCA in San Francisco. "It inspires me to see people that I want to be like doing this stuff."
The kids began the day with a brief tour of the facility before watching practice. And out on the field, their favorite players didn't disappoint.
The youngsters watched Alex Smith and Shaun Hill light up the field with perfect passes. They saw cornerback Allen Rossum make an impressive interception during team drills. And in the play of the morning, the kids saw wide receiver Brandon Jones haul in a spectacular catch along the near sideline.
Following practice, the young football players lined up and were given the opportunity to meet and receive autographs from their favorite professionals as they ran off the field and headed into the locker room.
"I just had a lot of fun with all the players," said 7-year-old Jayden. "We got to meet with them and get their autographs, which was really cool."
And while most of the kids were out there to meet as many players as possible, some of the camp participants spent their time seeking out their favorite player.
"Last year I thought No. 51 was so great, and I saw him again," 11-year-old Noelle said with a beaming smile. "He rocks. He signed my shirt."
Once the pens were put away, the kids took the field to work on their skills.
Coached by 49ers staff members, the young players practiced the same drills the 49ers just completed. They worked on passing and catching the football, they were taught the correct way to carry a football and they even learned proper tackling techniques.
It was an experience they will never forget.
"It was really cool because we got to see and do what the players do every day," 12-year-old Veronica said. "It was so much fun and I got to see all the players."
Throughout the week, nearly 700 kids from a wide variety of non-profit organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club Monterey County, InnVision the Way Home, Sunnyvale Police Activities League, Central YMCA, Eastside Youth Athletic Club (EYAC) and other Bay Area organizations serving at-risk youth will experience the same excitement these kids did on Monday.
Along with the football skills, camp participants also learn about the club's award-winning Respect Campaign, in which they are taught the necessity of showing respect for their schools, families and communities.
While the kids really benefit from seeing their role models up close, the 49ers get just as much out the experience as the youngsters do.
"Just being able to do what we do in front of them is great," 49ers tight end Delanie Walker said. "Any way we can help them out, we're always going to do it. We just love having them out here."