Ex-Seahawk Takes Long, Winding Road to Super Bowl LIV
When the 49ers and Chiefs take the field on Sunday in Miami to battle for the right to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, there won’t be any shortage of narratives and storylines.
Can Chiefs coach Andy Reid finally win the big game? Will Richard Sherman cap off his redemption tour with a second Super Bowl ring? Which elite tight end will have the better game on the biggest stage?
Pitting one of the NFL’s elite offensive attacks against one of the league’s stingiest defenses, Super Bowl LIV is shaping up to be an instant classic. While every player has a unique story getting to this point, none has traveled a more turbulent, yet fascinating path to South Beach than 49ers guard Mike Person.
A seven-year veteran out of Montana State, Person entered the NFL as a seventh-round selection for San Francisco back in 2011. He didn’t dress for a single game as a rookie and the team waived him during final roster cuts in August 2012, eventually getting claimed by Indianapolis.
After jettisoning Person, who spent just 10 days with the Colts before being waived again and signing with the Seahawks practice squad, the 49ers wound up finishing with the NFC’s best record and lost to the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
Person spent just 10 days with the Colts before being waived again, leading to a practice squad signing with the Seahawks a few days later. By late October, he’d earned a promotion to Seattle’s active roster, but once again didn’t play any snaps.
After playing in one game for Seattle in 2013, Person was waived… again. The Rams claimed him off waivers as he continued his tour through the NFC West, while the Seahawks went on to defeat the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Normally, such circumstances start a vicious cycle that ends with a player bouncing on and off practice squads and eventually washing out of the league. Person’s career was just getting started, however, even if he was far from finished encountering failure.
Two years later, after playing in all 16 games for the Rams during the 2014 season, Person signed a free agent deal with the Falcons and started 14 games at center. After years of instability, it looked like he had finally found a home.
But Person’s journeyman career took another sharp turn the following October, as Atlanta released him while he was at the hospital with his wife, who was receiving an ultrasound for their second child. After being signed by the Chiefs, he was forced to watch the Falcons march to the Super Bowl, only to choke away a 28-3 lead and lose to the Patriots.
27 years old at the time, Person had now been released by three teams that eventually went on to appear in the big game. You can’t make this stuff up.
Following a second stint with the Colts in 2017, which included four starts replacing starter Ryan Kelly, Person strongly considered retirement. Teams such as the Saints offered workouts and he declined them. His heart simply wasn’t in it anymore – not after being tossed aside on the free agent scrap heap so many times.
But then, when it appeared he had written the final chapter of his career, the 49ers came calling with an opportunity Person couldn’t pass up. His former offensive coordinator with the Falcons, Kyle Shanahan, wanted a veteran who understood the playbook and respected Person’s toughness and grit.
Returning to where his career started, injuries catapulted Person into the starting lineup in 2018 and he started all 16 games for the first time in his career. Proving to be a perfect fit in Shanahan’s offense and earning the respect of teammates, he was rewarded with a three-year deal worth $8.25 million last offseason.
Unlike 2017, when Person nearly walked away from the game completely, the turmoil he’s endured has somehow paved a path to stability. Playing on a team with several other castoffs who have become integral parts of San Francisco’s success, including running back Raheem Mostert, who had been cut by seven teams previously, he’s found a place to call home and he’s nowhere near the finish line.
Now, after starting 14 games for the NFC’s top-seeded 49ers in 2019, Person will finally get to play in the Super Bowl. After being denied three prior opportunities, he will have a chance to cap off an incredible journey characterized by hardship, determination, and perseverance with a championship.