Antoine Bethea Not Slowing Down Entering 10th NFL Season

Antoine Bethea couldn't have asked for a better first season with the San Francisco 49ers.

The strong safety tied a career-high with four interceptions, made his third Pro Bowl and was selected as the team's MVP.

Now Bethea is ready to translate his individual success into more wins. That objective begins on Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season.

"Each and every year is entirely different," Bethea said. "For me personally, I want to do whatever I can do to help this team improve on the defensive side of the ball and help the young guys grow. Last year was all fun and dandy, but that's in the past."

Just this week, Bethea was voted by his teammates as one of the nine captains for the season. The honor marks yet another accomplished chapter in the safety's improbable career.

Bethea, a former sixth-round draft choice in 2006 of the Indianapolis Colts, never could have imagined that he'd be a decade-long NFL veteran. In fact, Bethea is one of only seven Howard University alumni to get drafted and the only one to ever make a Pro Bowl.

The safety's NFL success stands alone among players from his alma mater, as no other player from Howard has been drafted since the Colts selected Bethea.

"It's tough," Bethea started. "I'd say 10 years ago, it was a dream just to make an NFL team. To be able to say I've been here for 10 years is a blessing. It's not something I take for granted. I thank the Lord everyday for being able to be in this position. Hopefully I can keep stacking years on top."

Bethea attributes much of his success to the support of his mother, Verina Bethea. The two share a phone call on every gameday and have done so for all 10 years Bethea has been in the league.

So what words of wisdom does the safety's mother provide?

"She tells me, 'Good luck,'" Bethea said. "It's just casual conversation. She's going to tell me to get one or two picks. That's her thing. Like, 'Hey, we'll be watching. Have a good game. We love you.'"

The adrenaline will be rushing from the moment Bethea wakes up on gameday this time around. Not only are the 49ers set to embark on their first season under head coach Jim Tomsula, but they'll do so at home and under the primetime lights of "Monday Night Football."

No matter if it's a player's first time on the biggest game of the week or if they've been there dozens of times before (as is the case for Bethea), playing on Monday night never gets old.

"It's excitement for everybody: for the fans and for the players to be able to go out there and kick this season off in front of the home fans," the safety said. "It's going to be primetime football on Monday night. There's a lot of buildup to that point, but I know we'll be ready and ready to go out there and have some fun."

With all the pomp and circumstance that comes with a primetime home opener, Bethea said there's one moment in particular that will top the rest. One moment that signifies the true beginning of a quest for football's ultimate prize.

"Just to run out of the tunnel with this new team, trying to get that Lombardi trophy here at Levi's® Stadium come February," Bethea said. "I'm just ready for this adventure."

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