Player Feature: Kai Nacua
The Nacua family is known for their love of football. The oldest of four boys, Kai set the example for working hard and exceling on the field. Only 14 months apart, Kai and younger brother, Isaiah, visited Brigham Young with father Lionel in 2012 to begin the recruiting process. Immediately following the visit, Lionel knew that this was the place for his two sons. "Honey, this is where I want the boys to go to school," Penina Nacua remembered her husband saying. "For my husband, BYU would be a dream opportunity for the boys." When the brothers both committed to play at Brigham Young, their father's dream became realized. "My husband would be so happy right now. We all are," Penina Nacua said. "It's been such a wonderful day." Unfortunately, Lionel passed away unexpectedly a few months prior at the age of 45. Despite not being able to have his dad see him play in college, Kai always brought a piece of Lionel with him in the game. "That first year after his dad's death, after a touchdown, Kai would always point up to the sky and remember his dad," Penina Nacua said. "It was always kind of the same with the other boys, they would always have a fist to their heart and would look up to dad so they remember him all the time, every day."
Attended Liberty (Henderson, Nevada) High School, where he reached back-to-back state championship games as a quarterback and led his team to an 11-2 record his senior season. During his time at BYU, Nacua majored in exercise and wellness
Read more about Kai Nacua by clicking his bio below.
This month's "Coach's Corner" comes from offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel
More than 14 years of coaching experience, including spending the last four in San Francisco under Kyle Shanahan as the 49ers run game specialist. Now, boasts the title of offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. Has that title officially like sunk in for you yet?
"Yes and no. There's so many years you spend in your life, trying to reach goals that you have in the back of your mind. And this is obviously one of them for me, but it's also, it's much of the same in terms of you come to work and try to execute your job at the highest level. So it's like coming to work like I always have, but, sometimes have to take step back and be like, 'Wait, is this the, is this really true? Did I actually? Was I able to achieve those goals that I've just been obsessed about for so many years?' So, it is cool. It hasn't really sunk in, but at the same time it's just doing the only thing I know how to do, which is be a football coach..."
I want to start off by telling a story that I'm not sure everybody is aware of, but as a Colorado native, you used to attend Broncos training camp. Back when you were 10 years old, you lost a very special hat to you. You were devastated, you were heartbroken, but that incident ended up initiating a relationship with assistant video director, Gary McCoon who replaced your hat. And through that relationship, you became a ball boy for the Broncos in high school. After college, you came back and interned in Denver, kicking off your coaching career, but looking at your journey, we can go so much deeper into that story. I want to talk about your journey, getting your start as an intern, spending time with the United Football League, making your way back to the NFL and working your way up the ranks. What does this promotion mean to 10 year-old Mike and also now offensive coordinator?
"When you phrase it like that, it almost makes me want to get emotional because it is a journey. That's a great way to phrase it. It is a journey that takes a lot personally, but your support system has to be on point. There're so many things that have to go right for that to be an actual opportunity. And, so it is surreal. It's really exciting. At the same time, you don't really even look at it that way immediately. You're trying to prove your worth and prove the people right that have really invested in you and invested in your career and given you opportunities. So, it instills a level of hunger on top of the hunger that you already had."
So I want to detail this passion for football. To my knowledge, you scribbled a message to yourself inside of your helmet growing up that said, 'I will be in the NFL' and you're not wrong because you are, but where did this passion begin? Where did it come from?
"That's good investigative reporting, right there. That is true. One of the things that was special about growing up in Denver, and just that area of the country and the Denver Broncos, there was such and a lure about them and John Elway. And you could really see something tangible in front of you in terms of a way to be successful and do something cool with your life. I think my mom really built me up as a child to basically make sure that I didn't have any limitations on my expectations of myself. In that process, I got very goal ambitious, but I also was reasonable and understood the numbers to a degree. And I was very, very careful with that word choice in that helmet. I was basically saying I will coach in the NFL, because I knew that the chances were slim to play. But, to answer your question it was the environment. It was the vision of trying to do something better with my life than my circumstances around me really provided. And then some reasonability of, 'Hey, I may not be able to play in the NFL, but if I study the game and am passionate enough about it, I can help people that have the physical tools to play the world's greatest sport on the highest level and make them better.' I can certainly do that."
I feel like it's appropriate to quote a Drake song because literally you started from the bottom and now you're here. You worked your way through the ranks. With new role as the offensive coordinator, how do your duties change? How much of your responsibilities differ from what you've done in previous seasons?
"The one thing Kyle's always been is he's very open to thoughts, ideas, and opinions, and kind of creates an environment where that's encouraged. There might be more game planning and responsibility to a degree, but every year I've been completely invested in the run and pass game plans even when I was a run game coordinator. So, it's just more of the same natural evolution, really. But again, it's just doing whatever, just like every other coach on our staff. Doing whatever I can to empower the play caller for Sunday so we can win football games.
To read more about Coach McDaniel, click the bio below.
WON of Us: Cristina
Cristina didn't learn about football until she moved to the United States from the Philippines but it wouldn't take long for her to build a tremendous passion for the game.
I have always been a sports fan but growing up in the Philippines, we didn't have American Football. I didn't even get introduced to it until I came to the US and my Dad and Uncle taught me. I would say that I started to become interested in the 49ers when I attended San Jose State University but my fandom truly thrived after I met my husband. At first, it was something that he really enjoyed but since it was a weekly tradition, he began teaching me the sport and doing his own version of play-by-play for me to explain what was happening on each play. My husband is also an avid trading card collector. When we first got married, it seemed like a waste of space and money, but over the years, I think I've learned to love it just as much as he does. We've been lucky enough to meet several players, have the cards autographed, and even become personal friends. To the original question, if I had to tie my hard-core fandom to a specific date, it would be January 3, 1999. The Catch II. Such an intense game! My husband was still doing play-by-play for me at the time. But understanding the emotion of Steve Young finally beating the Packers in a playoff game really reeled me into the sport and the team.
What do you love about WON?
I've been a member for several years now and so thankful for Denise DeBartolo York as well as Jenna and Mara York for the creation of the club in 2012. The vision has unfolded into a great experience for the fans. I love everything about the WON. The 49ers staff create a great environment that brings a group of strangers into a room and makes everyone feel like family. I try to attend as many events as possible. A few years back, my daughter also became a WON member and it's so special that we can come together in our busy lives to see each other.
Was there one inspirational moment in team history that confirmed your 49ers fandom?
I know how special The Catch is and I wish I could have seen it. I of course remember The Catch II but another moment that confirmed my fandom was the NFC Wild Card game in 2003. Jeff Garcia and the 49ers were down 24 points but led an amazing comeback, persevered, and eventually won the game! That game was the epitome of the 49ers: it doesn't matter what the score or situation is, this team finds players and coaches that never give up and will always strive for victory.
Get to know WON member Cristina.
What 49ers tradition or superstition do you/your family have?
Wherever we are to watch the game, it needs to be somewhere to emotionally and vocally express ourselves. We also have to be in our Niners gear from head to toe. Usually, before kickoff, we have a banner that we hang above the TV and our Jerry Rice jersey comes out of the closet to be hung in the living room. If we are ever on the road, we explore every avenue to watch, stream or listen to our Niners!
What impact has the 49ers had on your life?
Most importantly, watching the 49ers brings my family together. I love that we have a reason to come together every week in the fall. Being a 49ers fan has become part of my identity. At work, my co-workers know that I have an opinion on everything related to the team. There is a group of us that debrief the game every week. It brings me closer to my coworkers and gives us something to bond on.
I unfortunately lost several people in my life throughout 2020 but one thing that revitalized my hope, energy, and motivation was 49ers football. I'm so grateful for each moment and game last year. The games were a positive light in my life.
Finally, becoming an avid 49ers fan transformed me from being the quiet person in the room to being the loudest most confident fan in any room. I'm so thankful for that.
Get to Know the Front Office
Meet Saya Lindsay, Manager of Community Relations
What are your duties with the 49ers?
Our Community Relations team oversees the volunteerism and community outreach efforts of the organization including our players, coaches, ownership, front office staff and their families. Our goal is to find ways to support those in our community who need it most. We also manage NFL initiatives including Inspire Change, Salute to Service, and My Cause, My Cleats.With the unique challenges this last year presented, I've supported our COVID Relief efforts including frontline hero appreciation, food and resource donations, financial support of small businesses, and maintaining relationships with nonprofit organizations. I also manage our wellness initiatives like Crucial Catch presented by Dignity Health and 49ers Wish, and grow awareness and support for causes like ALS and mental health. Additionally, I have the great honor of supporting the families of players, coaches, and executives and welcoming them to the 49ers family.I'm proud to work for a team that makes giving back and community impact a priority starting with our ownership, GM and Head Coach. Shoutout to my amazing CR family, Stacy and Michelle, and the many 49ers departments who help make an impact in the community. It is a total team effort!
How did you get to your role?
My entire life, I've loved sports and helping people. I swam up through college and filled my spare time with community outreach and coaching a youth swim team. After college, I moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where I worked for African Lyon FC, a premier league soccer team. As one of the team's only employees, I was able to learn all sides of the organization including community engagement. My office was often the team minivan but I loved every second of it! We had a partnership with a MLS team where they would donate equipment and support our youth soccer programs and that's the first time I was introduced to Community Relations. I knew it was my dream job – using sports as a vehicle for change. I moved back to my hometown in Southern California and began applying for community-driven roles at sports teams. In the meantime, I worked for an amazing nonprofit consulting company, gaining relevant experience. I applied for a Youth Football internship with the 49ers and while I wasn't selected, I was recommended for the Community Relations internship and am beyond grateful to this day for those mentors and that opportunity. I cried many happy tears when I got the call. The internship turned into a full-time role which I can happily say, is a dream come true.
What advice do you have for those seeking your role?
My parents engrained in me to follow my passion and find something I love doing every single day. If you're seeking a role like mine, you should wake up excited for the impact that you get to be a part of. It took several years to find my dream role, but I stayed the course and gained relevant experience that made me the best candidate once the right opportunity presented itself. Follow your passion and it will open doors, even if you have to overcome obstacles to get through them.
What is your favorite moment with the team? On and off the field?
On the field, it would have to be winning the NFC Championship during that magical 2019 season! While we didn't end it with the ultimate prize, I would not replace a single memory I have with our families, staff, or players in Miami.Off the field moments, I have too many to pick just one! The absolute best part of my job is anytime we connect with the community, create once-in-a-lifetime experiences or provide for those who need it most, that becomes my new favorite moment. We have a saying that football is family and I feel so fortunate to be a part of the 49ers family and be able to extend that embrace to the community.Just a few weeks ago, several departments came together to support Danny Yu Chang, a victim of a recent anti-Asian hate crime in San Francisco. After he was attacked, our Social team noticed he was interviewed in 49ers gear. Working closely with our AAPI employee resource group, we tracked down his contact information and expressed our support on behalf of the organization and sent him his very own custom 49ers jersey and care package.
The San Francisco 49ers condemn the violence and senseless acts of hate perpetrated against the Asian-American community across the country and The Bay. To the AAPI community, we got your back.
This Month in 49ers History
Just four months after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball, Kaname "Wally" Yonamine lined up in the San Francisco 49ers backfield and became the first athlete of Japanese ancestry to play pro football. He helped open the door to people of color in American sports. This event was the first step in a unique athletic journey that eventually earned him a spot in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
Click here to learn more about Kaname "Wally" Yonamine.