California Dreaming at YSU

Brian Yauger

Before their week two matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, the San Francisco 49ers made a stop in the Mahoning Valley, practicing on the soccer field at Youngstown State University.

“Everything has been perfect,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said during the team’s press conference on campus. “We just need a football field. Even though we were on a soccer field, it was lined with football lines, so that makes it a football field.”

The team used the soccer field to avoid scheduling conflicts with YSU’s football team and the marching band.

For those unaware of the Youngstown connection to the San Francisco 49ers, Edward DeBartolo, who was born and raised in Youngstown, purchased the team in 1977, and the team has been a family affair ever since.

49ers starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo warms up during an individual period at Farmers National Bank Field. San Francisco practiced on the campus of Youngstown State University in between week 1 and week 2 of the NFL season. Photo courtesy of Robert Hayes

The team is now owned by Denise DeBartolo York and her husband John York with son Jed York serving as the team’s CEO.

Penguins coach Bo Pelini has ties to the organization, being hired as the defensive backs coach in 1994, which was his first gig in the NFL.

“I have great memories of my three years there,” Pelini said during the weekly press conference. “There’s always a special place in my heart for the 49ers. From ‘Mr. D’ [owner Edward DeBartolo Jr.], what he brought to the table, I had the opportunity to get my career started … I think I speak for most people in the area; we wish them well every single week.” 

On that same staff, which won the 1995 Super Bowl in Pelini’s first year, was then-offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan, the father of current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

“I don’t know Kyle well, but I coached with his dad,” Pelini said. “It makes me feel old because Kyle was a kid when I was coaching there. He’s done a great job and it doesn’t surprise me. His dad was as good of a football coach as I’ve ever been around.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman said though not being at home has been tough for his kids, it’s been great for the team.

“My kids aren’t happy; they think I abandoned them, but it’s worked out in terms of the team and getting prepared, getting our bodies adjusted to the time zone,” Sherman said. “I think that’s why we’re staying here, and I think that’s been really effective, but the family’s not going to be happy about it.”

One thing Youngstown is known for is its food. Tight end George Kittle was glad to be back in the Midwest for the food selection. 

“It’s fun for me to be back in the Midwest,” Kittle said. “You have every chain restaurant you could possibly want. I got Cane’s. I got Panda Express. I’m not saying I’ve eaten at all of them, but I could eat at every chain restaurant. I love it. It’s a little homey.”

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was impressed by the local selection, singling out the area’s Italian food.

“It’s been good [in Youngstown],” Garoppolo said. “I had some good Italian food that’s been phenomenal. I got some good ice cream last night, which was fun. Youngstown has been nothing but a good time.”

The stay in Youngstown must have been a very good time, as the 49ers came out energized in week two. San Francisco won their matchup against the Bengals in dominating fashion, beating Cincinnati 41-17.