SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Arik Armstead’s brother, Armond, always told his little brother he would become the best football player in the family.
Now, the younger – bigger – brother and new San Francisco 49ers first-round pick will try to experience a long NFL career Armond never got.
Armond retired from the New England Patriots last July before ever playing a single NFL snap after multiple heart attacks that derailed his dream. He played one season in the Canadian Football League.
As far back as Arik can remember growing up in Sacramento, he has wanted to be just like his older brother and fellow defensive lineman. With Armond’s career done, he is helping guide his brother through this new, daunting transition to the NFL.
“It’s huge for me,” Arik said. “When I started playing football, he was the best player in the city. I idolized him and wanted to grow up and be like him someday and become the type of football player he was. … I was a little kid just watching, going on recruiting trips, going to his games watching and hopefully one day becoming him. He helped me throughout the whole process.”
Arik Armstead was formally introduced Friday by the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium, where general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Tomsula stood alongside him briefly before rushing back to the draft room. San Francisco selected the Oregon defensive end with the 17th overall pick in Thursday’s first round.
Exhausted from a lack of sleep, Armstead visited with some new teammates Friday and got a tour of the stadium museum.
“It’s been kind of surreal,” he said. “I don’t think it’s really hit me yet.”
While Arik is ready to begin his professional career, a heart condition sidelined Armond for his senior season at USC in 2011 and he went undrafted that year. During his short stint with the Patriots, he also needed surgery for an infection unrelated to the heart issues and never saw the field on Sunday for game day.
“He always told me I was going to be better than him. He always told me he wanted me to be better than him, and he helped me do that,” Arik Armstead said. “And he’s still helping me to this day, been helping me through the draft process to get it right. I owe him a lot.”
Armstead was joined Friday by his parents, Christa and Guss, who are thrilled they will only have to drive about 90 minutes to see him play after regularly making those six-hour drives to Eugene from California’s capital to watch him in college.
Some 250 people greeted Armstead at his draft party Thursday night before they made the – gasp! – traffic-free 75-minute drive to the South Bay on Friday. The Armsteads have recruited a few more friends to become 49ers fans.
“If you were anything else, you have to switch,” Christa said.
While Armstead said he knows how to turn on the switch to become a ferocious, “violent” player once he steps on the field, off it he makes a point to care about others. Those burgundy, almost 49ers-red, pants he wore Friday were already planned regardless of who picked him. He wore a 49ers pin on his dark checked sport coat.
“I think I treat people the right way. That’s No. 1 in my mind,” he said. “If you treat people the right way, you’ll be blessed throughout your life and that’s what I try to do.”
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.