When Arik Armstead begins his NFL career this fall, he'll be playing for more than just himself.
Believe it or not, the 6-foot-7, 292-pound behemoth is actually a little brother. And throughout his childhood, Arik idolized his elder sibling, Armond.
An All-American in high school, a starter at Southern Cal during the Pete Carroll era and a New England Patriot signee, Armond put the Armstead name on the map.
But just 10 months before the San Francisco 49ers selected Arik in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Armond was forced to retire from football due to medical issues before he played a down in the NFL.
Now, at the onset of his own NFL career, Arik is ready to finish what his brother started.
"It's huge for me," Arik said during his introductory press conference. "Growing up, I wanted to be like him someday and become the type of football player he was.
"He always told me that I was going to be better than him. He still helps me to this day. I owe him a lot."
Armond's medical troubles began in March 2011 when he suffered a heart attack at USC. He sat out the following season before entering the 2012 draft. After no team used a pick on him, Armond decided to sign with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.
In his only season with the team, Armond totaled 43 tackles, six sacks, two fumble recoveries and was named an all-star en route to the Argonauts winning the Grey Cup title. That impressive campaign led the Patriots to sign him in January 2013.
But after competing in offseason workouts, Armond contracted an infection and spent the ensuing season on the non-football injury list. By July of last year, Armond decided to announce his retirement. It was later reported that he suffered a second heart attack in 2014.
"He would have been a top-15 player or better," former St. Louis Rams player personnel director Charley Armey told The Sacramento Bee.
In the months since he walked away from football, Armond has turned his attention to helping Arik become the player he couldn't be.
"I'm very proud of him, obviously," Armond told 49ers.com. "I've come to grips with my career. It is what it is. Everything in life happens for a reason, and I'm a firm believer in God. I feel like with anything in my life, if it doesn't happen, it wasn't essential for my life."
In the buildup to the draft, the Armstead brothers spent time in San Diego training together. Off the field, Armond served as a mentor for Arik as he went through similar pre-draft scrutiny.
That level of camaraderie is nothing new in the Armstead family. As children, Arik and Armond often spent entire weekends hanging out and playing video games together.
"It's a blessing that they're so close," said the brothers' mom, Christa Armstead. "(Armond) follows him more than we do. I say, 'Are you working? Or are you just sending stuff about Arik?'"
Because Arik witnessed first-hand how fragile a football career can be, those close to him believe he will not take this opportunity with the 49ers for granted.
"I'm sure that Arik considers himself fortunate," said Joe Cattolico, Arik and Armond's coach at Pleasant Grove High School. "He's seen that sometimes things outside of your control keep you from being able to take advantage of things in your life. He's seen that with his brother, so he's going to make the best of it and be motivated by that."
In the weeks leading up to and the moments immediately after the 49ers made Arik their first-round pick, Armond heard some NFL analysts question his brother's passion for football. Those comments, Armond believes, will serve as fuel to Arik as he enters the NFL.
"It would motivate anybody," Armond said. "But look, if I had a team, and I saw a guy as a finished product coming out of college, I don't think I'd really want that guy. If someone is 20 years old and is a finished product, what is really left there?
"So if you're not scared of it, it can never be a negative thing. You just have to put in the work. Because I'd rather take a player who has the skills that someone can't teach. I know if I believe in myself as an educator, than I'd be able to teach him the things to make him successful."
With that being said, what kind of career does Armond anticipate his brother having in pro football?
"He'll do as well as he wants to do," Armond said. "The sky is the limit for him physically. He can do it. I always knew he had the skill set to be a Hall-of-Fame player. He just has to put in the work to do it."