Mike Walter Lights Up the BFT
The San Francisco 49ers are 5-0 in Super Bowls leading up to Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens – the only undefeated franchise to have played in more than one Super Bowl. But what is it that makes a franchise like San Francisco capable of winning the big game every time they make the trip? Former 49ers linebacker and three-time Super Bowl champion Mike Walter joined the BFT on Thursday to answer this question and discuss his career in the NFL.
Right away Walter highlighted the work ethic of the entire 49ers team, exemplified by Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice. Recently, current 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss made the claim that he was the greatest player of all time at the position, but quickly followed up by stating he intended no disrespect towards Rice with the claim. Having played with Rice for a number of years, Walter weighed in with his take on the matter:
“I’ve seen [Moss] where he’ll walk off the line of scrimmage during a game,” said Walter. “Jerry Rice never took a play in practice
And that attitude was shared amongst his teammates. Walter recalled how running back Roger Craig would run all the way to the end of the field for a touchdown during practices, as well as how the practice was eventually adopted by both Rice and fullback Tom Rathman and turned into a competition between the three.
“Whoever got the ball, they scored a touchdown every time they got the ball in practice,” he said.
But the passion and the work ethic didn’t stop at the players. Walter praised former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr. for his commitment to helping the team win, as well as former head coach Bill Walsh for his leadership.
“You remember how [Walsh] dealt with people and how treated people, and [how] he managed people,” Walter explained. “It wasn’t just by chance that [the 49ers] were such a great organization.”
Great indeed. Walter would win three Super Bowls as a linebacker for the 49ers: one in 1984 (Super Bowl XIX), and then two more in back-to-back years in 1988 and 1989 (Super Bowl XXIII and XXIV, respectively). When asked about which win stood out, he explained that all three wins were “about equal” to him, and that each win was great by its own merits.
When asked to respond to the comments of former NFL head coach Dan Reeves – whose Denver Broncos Walter and the 49ers defeated 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV – about being more impressed by the Niners defense than the offense in that game, Walter acknowledged that while his team’s defense was one of the top two in the league at the time he personally was still more amazed by San Francisco’s offense.
“Heck, I just wanted to make stops, get off the field and sit there and watch our offense,” he remarked. “Who cares about defense? I wanted to go watch Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.”
Still, for every Jerry Rice, there was a John Taylor. And while Walter acknowledged Rice’s place as likely the greatest receiver of all time, he acknowledged that Taylor, a receiver who also returned punts and kickoffs for the 49ers, was in fact his favorite receiver.
“Here’s a guy that just went out and did his job,” said Walter. “He didn’t care about the media, he didn’t care about recognition. He just wanted to go out and play hard and just do whatever he could to help the team.”
After leaving the sport, Walter admitted that after so many years of the NFL consuming his life as a player he not only enjoyed his time away, but that he stopped regularly watching NFL games for quite some time. He stated that he always felt closer to his college football program, the University of Oregon Ducks, but that he might feel differently had he had more professional accolades like being an “eight-time All-Pro” or “had [his] name on the side of the building.” He has started following the NFL again in recent years, and while he acknowledges the increase in the level of overall play when compared to college football, the collegiate game still has an edge.
“I enjoy them both, but I really enjoy following the college game,” he said.
Thankfully, Walter won’t have to look hard for some familiar college faces come Super Bowl Sunday, as the University of Oregon has three prominent players figuring to see significant time in the big game – Baltimore Ravens starting defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, starting tight end Ed Dickson and San Francisco 49ers starting kick returner LaMichael James are all former Ducks.
When asked about both defenses, Walter said he was excited to see both team’s pass rush, and that he thinks both teams, “are going to bring it.”
To listen to the entire interview, click below: