Super Bowl LIV: Joe Staley Talks His Future, Work Ethic, Pesky Ticket Seekers

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When 49ers’ second-year offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey committed to Notre Dame as a high school junior, Fighting Irish strength coach Paul Longo gave him some advice. Watch film of Joe Staley, a player Longo worked with 10 years prior. McGlinchey hadn’t heard of Staley but after a few film sessions was so blown away by Staley’s talent, his Pro Bowls, his clear leadership that the high-schooler changed his number to 74 for his senior season. 

This week in Miami, McGlinchey beamed when asked about Staley.  “I could talk about Joe Staley all day. Joe’s grown into my best friend.” This strong of a kinship between two football players a decade apart in age may not be commonplace, but little about Staley’s career is typical.

Staley is about to complete his 13th season, all with the same franchise, a feat few players have every emulated. The six-time Pro Bowler has survived every type of NFL season from Super Bowl berths to the being the NFL’s laughingstock. Through it all he’s been a masterclass in professionalism. As the only member of the 49ers who played in the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans, or even at Candlestick Park for that matter, finally hoisting Lombardi would culminate a fascinating, layered career. The idea of Staley finally winning a ring is not lost on his teammates.

“It does make it more special, “ said McGlinchey this week from the 49ers’ media availability.” This guy has gone through so much in this organization from the early parts of his career when they were really bad, the Harbaugh years when they got good, then they crashed and burned. Even in the past four seasons, the team didn’t win more than six games in any season. That can be really hard for players to be motivated but Joe modeled the importance of a consistent and strong work ethic in the good and the bad.”

We caught up with Staley to discuss his leadership, his future and deflecting those pesky “friends” seeking Super Bowl tickets. 

Melissa Jacobs: A couple of years ago you told me you were on the brink of retirement before Kyle Shanahan was hired. How close were you?

Joe Staley: I think I was tossing the idea around in my mind and actually starting to think about it. It wasn’t a situation where if Kyle doesn’t tell me what I want to hear in this meeting, I’m going to tell him I’m done. It wasn’t like that. But I was thinking about as I was getting older in age and the game of football becomes harder on your body as you age. I was feeling that and the strain of it taking away time with my kids and my family. And weighing those options and what do I want to do after football and what does my life look like if I continue to play until I’m 40 years old. 

But once I met with Kyle, I got really excited about what he’s about and the opportunity to play for him was something exciting for me and I wanted to be a part of it.

MJ: Since you were quasi-thinking about retirement, what do you want to do post-NFL?

JS: I would love to coach, but NFL level coaching, I think it would be really fun. Then again, it’s the time commitment again. I’m sitting here talking about being away from my family as a player and being an NFL coach is a little bit more than that. I don’t really know, I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into it.

What I do know when I’m done with football I’m going to enjoy a good year of doing nothing and being with my family and losing weight and taking the stress of football off my body. 

MJ: Are you aspiring to be the next Joe Thomas and lose like 100 pounds?

JS: I hope to be. He’s a great inspiration for offensive lineman. Nothing but positive for guys who are 300 pounds for the last 16 years.

MJ: Is it hard to keep weight on?

JS: For me, a little bit. I was naturally skinny and had to gain weight to play offensive line in college, I have to eat a lot. I actually went one year, it was actually my third year and I was like 325 pounds and I told myself, ‘If I’m going to be this big, I’m not going to play very long in the NFL.’ I could barely move, I felt awful, but my coach at the time kept telling me I needed to gain weight and keep getting bigger. Then one year I was determined to lose weight and all I did was eat right. I ate healthy and clean for an entire offseason and I lost 30 pounds. I came back at 295-pounds and realized I could play in the NFL. I felt good, I could move. 

MJ: Well, 13 years in the NFL and you’ve really grown into a mentor role. How much pride do you take in helping young guys like Mike McGlinchey?

JS: I think it comes naturally. It’s not really a forced thing, like this is my role or that guys have to listen to me. I’ve always had pride in what I do in terms of preparation and work ethic throughout my career and the way I go about my business and I think that just naturally has guys watching what you do, especially when you play in the league for so long. Guys want to see what it takes to last in the league for 13 years. So yeah, I take a lot of pride in what I do.

MJ: What’s your makeup of people here this week? Who’s coming to the game?

JS: Immediate family only, actually. I kind of closed the doors. I said we would do my mom, my dad, my sisters, my sister’s husband, my wife, my two kids, my wife’s mom and dad and my wife’s sister. 

MJ: Did you get a lot of random people you haven’t spoken to since high school asking you for tickets?

JS: Oh yeah, but everybody does. I just didn’t want to deal with saying yes to one friend and no to another. Picking favorites. I’m saying no to everybody so don’t be offended. I do say they’re free to come down but I won’t have tickets to the game. Once they hear that, it’s like, ‘oh, I’ll just watch it on tv.’

MJ: This week, there’s been a bit of a mantra around the 49ers after trying to win the Super Bowl as a team. Win it for Joe. How does that make you feel?

JS: I think just being around here and spending my time with one franchise and being here 13 years, I think guys wanted to see guys rewarded who have been with one franchise.