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Gators assistant Bryant Young has a special interest in today's Super Bowl between the 49ers and Ravens.

Sunday February 3, 201349ers' Run to Super Bowl Stirs Memories for Gators DT Coach Bryant Young

Gators assistant Bryant Young has a special interest in today's Super Bowl between the 49ers and Ravens.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- He was there two weeks ago when his former team, the only franchise he played for during his 14-year NFL career, entered the locker room following its biggest win in 18 years.

Bryant Young watched as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, head coach Jim Harbaugh, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo and others celebrated San Francisco's 28-24 win over Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game.

In his third season as the Gators' defensive tackles coach, Young was at the Georgia Dome as San Francisco's honorary captain during the pregame coin toss. The last time San Francisco had won an NFC Championship to advance to the Super Bowl, Young was there, too.

He played for the 49ers from 1994 to 2007, racking up 89 1/2 career sacks and four trips to the Pro Bowl.

On the day the 49ers beat the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys at Candlestick Park to advance to their fifth Super Bowl in 14 years, Young was a 22-year-old rookie starting defensive tackle.

San Francisco intercepted Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman three times that January 1995 day, and two weeks later the 49ers steamrolled San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX in Miami.

In his first season Young won a Super Bowl ring. The jubilant scene in the 49ers' locker room in Atlanta not only served as a celebration of the present but a reminder of the past for Young, who turned 41 last week.

"It kind of took me back to that moment when we won the Super Bowl,'' Young said Friday. "To be able to win in the championship game and have a chance to advance and play in the Super Bowl, I'm really excited for them. I think their chances of winning are pretty good."

San Francisco faces Baltimore on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Young has tickets but was uncertain whether he would have time to attend. The Gators are busy trying to close strong before National Signing Day on Wednesday.

Regardless, there is no doubt which team he'll be rooting for.

Young's last season was in 2007 and ended with him being carried off the field at Candlestick Park on his teammates' shoulders. One of the 49ers' most-liked and well-respected players during his career, Young played with several of the current 49ers.

Former Gators defensive lineman Ray McDonald, in his sixth season with San Francisco, was a rookie. Frank Gore, Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis and Alex Smith are other former teammates of Young's seeking their first Super Bowl ring.

"It's great to see some of the guys I played with who are still there -- I'm really happy for those guys because they have been through some tough spots,'' Young said. "I think their maturity and leadership has helped to this point.

"I think Jim Harbaugh has done a great job being there as the head coach and leading those guys in the right way."

Once the model of stability, after the 49ers improved to 5-0 in Super Bowls during Young's rookie season, struggles followed once stars such as quarterback Steve Young, receiver Jerry Rice and linebacker Ken Norton moved on.

Young played on winning teams in seven of his first nine seasons under head coaches George Seifert and Steve Mariucci, but the 49ers failed to finish above .500 in each of Young's final five seasons.

They have returned to prominence under Harbaugh, the former NFL quarterback and Stanford head coach in his second season.

And of course, there is Kaepernick, a relative unknown when he replaced Smith early in the season at quarterback.

"The guy can run. He has great pocket presence,'' Young said. "He has a pretty good arm. He is accurate and can make the tough throws and when he gets into a jam he can get some extra yards running the ball.

"A lot of people were kind of baffled by the decision Coach made early in the year, but it worked out really well."

Yes it did. One more victory and Kaepernick and the 49ers will experience what Young and his teammates experienced 18 years ago on a muggy night in Miami.

Young is no longer a rookie. He has a much deeper grasp of what a Super Bowl win means.

"It has been a long time,'' he said. "You come in and win a Super Bowl your first year and quickly find out that that's not the case each year. Each year takes on its own identity.

"I'm very fortunate that I got a chance to play in a Super Bowl and win."


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