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The Tony Montana Squad


Credit Ahmad Brooks with the assist.

During the days of September practices when San Francisco players were getting up to speed under a new coaching staff, the 49ers linebacker played Future's "Tony Montana" inside the team's locker room and a movement followed shortly after.

Future's song, which serves as tribute to the fictional lead character from the 1980s film Scarface, was requested by the players to be played as part of the team's weekly practice music. From there, it was demanded by San Francisco's kickoff team to be played before every kickoff at Candlestick Park.

The song debuted as the kickoff team's anthem on Nov. 13 in a 27-20 win over the New York Giants, a game in which the 49ers recovered the 11th onside kick in the National Football League all this season.

Once Future's song hits Candlestick's sound system, players inside the kickoff huddle begin to sway side-to-side immediately. Those movements continued throughout the season and were even filmed by ESPN cameras during a 20-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on "Monday Night Football." The clip later made its way on to YouTube.

By that point, it wasn't just the kickoff team embracing the energetic song. It was well-received by fans as well as the entire 49ers sideline.

"It's not only our kickoff squad, when you look at our sidelines, it's our whole team," said special teams Pro Bowl alternate Blake Costanzo, who's second on the team with 17 special teams tackles. "It's been like that all season. We all get jacked up for each other. The whole Tony Montana is a team thing now."

In a season when everything has been team-first, the kickoff anthem has helped unify the entire 49ers roster. But it's not just on kickoffs where special teams contributions can be noticed, throughout the year, the 49ers have been one of, if not the, most dominant special teams groups around.

For starters, both kicker David Akers and Andy Lee were named All-Pros and Pro Bowl starters. Stellar in its own right, the kicking duo has been greatly benefited by top-notch coverage units.

Besides being the only NFL team to not surrender a return touchdown of any kind this season, the 49ers led the league in numerous special teams categories under the leadership and tutelage of esteemed special teams coordinator Brad Seely, who also serves as the team's assistant head coach.

The 49ers started 37 drives in opponent's territory and allowed just 11 drives to start in their own territory, both ranked first in the NFL. Furthermore, the 49ers had an average starting field position at their own 33.5-yard line and held opponents to start drives at their 20.8-yard line, both were best in the league.

Meanwhile, Lee led the NFL in punting average (44.0) and punting gross average (50.9). His net average, thanks in large part to tremendous coverage, set the NFL's single-season record for net punting.

According to Akers, the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for December/January, much of the success has to do with energy of the coverage units.

"They do it with an enthusiasm that's second to none," said Akers, who set an NFL record with 44 made field goals on the year. "They've been able to really solidify our coverage units. To me, I just think that is something teams don't emphasize. It really takes a lot of knowledge, reading schemes, playing off each other and working through the scheme Brad develops."

Heading into the team's first playoff appearance in nine years, and first ever postseason matchup with the New Orleans Saints, that same high-caliber effort will be needed if the 49ers want to advance to the NFC Championship game.

"They get a lot of opportunities, because they have an explosive offense," cautioned Costanzo of New Orleans' special teams. "They kick the ball off a lot and they don't punt as much."

The 49ers, who've allowed their own returner Ted Ginn Jr. to average 27.6 yards per kick return and 12.3 yards per punt return, will have to shut down all running lanes for Darren Sproles, a shifty runner in his own right.

"Every time he touches the ball it's electric," Costanzo said. "It seems like we always play against someone this year. We're excited for the opportunity and the challenge. There's no better way to view where you're at than to play the best, and he's one of the best out there."

Fortunately, the 49ers will bring one of the fastest coverage units into Saturday's Divisional Playoff matchup.

"We're always going to have someone free coming through, whether it's the front-side guys or the back-side guys," said wide receiver Brett Swain, who recorded three special teams tackles in last year's Super Bowl as a member of the Green Bay Packers. "There's always going to be a one-on-one block and someone is beating that block and getting free to the ball carrier."

That someone could even be a defensive lineman.

Undrafted rookie Demarcus Dobbs has recently joined "The Tony Montana Squad," when fellow rookie Bruce Miller was hampered with an injury.

Dobbs previously pleaded with Seely to get involved in covering kicks during training camp and finally got his opportunity midseason with a solid debut on the team's punt coverage unit.

"I've been trying to do all I can for the team and contribute in any way possible," Dobbs said. "Being on that squad with a bunch of guys who love to hit and just love football, it's been a fun thing for me."

Now, Dobbs gets to join in on the pregame fun, swaying side-to-side to the signature kickoff song.

"It really does set the tempo," Dobbs added. "Having everybody come together on that one play – it's just electrifying. When I joined the squad, they told me, 'When you're in there, you're going to have to dance. You're going to have to get into it.' But I was already dancing on the sidelines, so it was nothing new to me."

The pre-kick hype is somewhat new to fellow rookie Colin Jones, a fifth-round pick, who Seely envisioned to be a special teams contributor from day one. However, the Texas native, who listens to mostly country and rock music, has done a nice job of blending in with his rambunctious teammates.

"I kind of let everybody else do the dancing," Jones admitted. "I just kind of move and try not be a sore thumb out there."

If Jones is out of place, his teammates can't tell.

"Everyone's got swag," said Ginn. "The song does it, but they have it in their soul anyway. It just goes together like, 'BANG!'… It's one of the things that we do to get us riled up, to get us prepared for battle."

So if everyone on the 53-man roster is bouncing to the music, who has the most energy?

That's an easy answer according to second-year running back Anthony Dixon, the unofficial special teams hype man.

"I think the unanimous decision would be me," Dixon said with a big grin.

But really, the energy carries through to all the players during special teams plays. As a group, they've adopted a mindset similar to the character in the song itself.

"Everyone in here has watched the Tony Montana movie, when we hear that song, it's time to go ride," Dixon said. "We can't let them get anything. We have to go down there and take from them, same thing Tony Montana did. That's all it is, to me."

For players not as familiar with the movie and character played by Al Pacino, the energy it creates is good enough.

"That song is just funny in itself," Akers shared. "They played it early in the year and I didn't know what they were saying half the time. I asked Andy Lee, 'What are they saying?' And he said, 'I'm not really sure.' So we looked it up and found out it was 'Tony Montana,' like whatever that is…'

"It gets them hyped up and that's all that really matters…They go down there and they take care of business."

And in doing so, they do it together, equally sharing in the successes of their efforts.

"The song is something that brought us all together," linebacker Tavares Gooden explained. "It's something everyone looks forward to it. Everyone feeds off of it. It's something simple, something cool.

"They say music eases the soul, eases the mind and I really believe that. I think music brings everyone together and that's what that song did.  Going through training camp and practices, you're able to relate to something else that a teammate relates to, that's what it's about. It's about team chemistry and that song represents our team chemistry.

"We want to be a Scarface. We want to be Tony Montana when we're out there and that's why that song has really grown on us. The world is ours, we're Tony Montana."

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