The Niner Empire has a new territory.
Mobile, Ala., is halfway across the country from the San Francisco 49ers headquarters in Northern California, but the midsized Gulf of Mexico town of less than 200,000 people has produced two of the team's recent high draft picks.
Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt, both products of Davidson High School in Mobile, have turned the city's college football-crazed fans into bona fide Faithfuls.
"I don't care what anybody's allegiances are in Mobile anymore, we are 49ers supporters no matter what," said Fred Riley, Ward and Tartt's coach at Davidson. "People around here really don't grow up being NFL fans. You cheer for either Alabama or Auburn. But I can tell you now that Mobile is all in with the San Francisco 49ers."
Riley was at his daughter's college graduation when he got word from a friend of Tartt's selection in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. At first, the coach didn't believe which team drafted Tartt.
San Francisco's rookie defensive back, recovering from injury, shows off his speed during a minicamp workout.
"I texted back, 'You're kidding me,'" Riley said. "So I went out of the building and called her. She said, 'Coach, we have two kids who are San Francisco 49ers.'
"I mean, what are the odds of that? Two kids who played side-by-side in high school are now possibly going to play side-by-side together for the 49ers."
This week, the start of the 49ers OTAs, could mark the first time Ward and Tartt are on the same field since high school. Ward, San Francisco's first-round pick in 2014, is still recovering from a foot injury that shortened his rookie season last fall, so whether or not he will participate is unknown at this time.
Regardless, Riley believes that his former pupils will push each other in the NFL. He added that having a familiar face will be especially beneficial for Tartt, a hard-hitting safety who only began playing competitive football his senior year of high school.
"Having Jimmie there is in Jaquiski's best interest," Riley said. "He'll have somebody that can help him through all the little things. I'm sure it'll help with the learning curve."