Football legend Joe Montana visits kids in SF neighborhood
SAN FRANCISCO — After a series of violent incidents prompted a peace march by residents of the South of the Market Area (SoMA), the kids in the neighborhood got a morale booster with a rare visit from football legend Joe Montana.
The National Football League Hall of Fame quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers himself, brightened up the United Playaz (UP) center where he was welcomed by officials, mentors and excited star-struck kids of the UP and West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center.
Nicknamed at Mr. Cool and master of come-from-behind victories who led the 49ers to four Super Bowl wins, including the consecutive ones in 1989 and 1990, Montana was named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player three times during his career.
Another visitor joined Montana–technology startup giant Ron Conway to give the kids a pep talk as they seek the right path in their lives.
“A legend in football, Joe Montana, and Ron Conway, a billionaire in technology business, are speaking to the kids to inspire them and let them know to tell how to be champions in life,” explained an all fired up Rudy Corpuz, United Playaz executive director. “And we thank the biggest gangster in the world, God, who set it all up so we were able to invite and have them here.”
Easy to convince
Corpuz, a Filipino, said his group did not have a hard time convincing Montana to come over as he actually wanted to speak to the kids despite his very busy schedule. He added that quite a few people had come to the center before to speak to the kids, but they not in the same league as Montana and Conway.
“I feel very thankful and blessed to have this man coming over to address this organization and speak to the kids,” Corpuz said. He called Montana the best example for kids on how to be respectful and more attentive to experiences.
West Bay Executive Director Vivian Araullo brought along a contingent of her own West Bay center kids and joined Corpus in hosting Montana and Conway.
In his short talk, Montana acknowledged the challenges that the kids are facing around them, citing “all kind of crazy things that go on outside this building. It is always easy to go to the other side, where people are just not doing the right and proper things to try and succeed in life.”
Montana said that during his younger days there were riots going on, kids being stabbed, and it could have been easy to go to the other direction, to follow the crowds to where they were going.
“And you guys can have an effect on the schools and the places that you are going to,” he advised. “That you can help other people. And that is when you get the most joy.”
Montana said he had a lot of fun playing football, “but to me the most joy would come when you help somebody and you see that person go on to be successful. No matter how small that thing can be or how big it is. They are looking for a direction and you guys can be a key to that.”
He intimated that as he grew up in a little Pennsylvania town, the two schools there used to contend against each in football and basketball championships. But they got together to win games and eventually became champions together.
“Once we finally settled down and figured ‘hey we are not against each other now we are a family and should work as a unit.’ It was just a matter of realizing that the person seating next to you is just exactly like you just another person, has the same feelings and deserve the same respect as you are. The minute you give it to somebody, somebody is going to give it back to you,” Montana related
In the open forum, Montana was asked about the reported domestic violence incident involving active the players in the National Football League, and he sounded concerned and worried.
“That is becoming something that the NFL can less afford. They have to find ways (to make clear) that what is going on is not right and everybody knows that. And things need to be done and rules may (have to) be changed. Like the rest of society when something goes wrong, somebody has to answer for it,” Montana asserted.
For his part, Conway said he learned early in life that if you work hard, “you can probably do almost anything and if you set goals to yourself.”
Conway has been an active angel investor for over 15 years. He was the Founder and Managing Partner of the Angel Investors LP funds (1998-2005) whose investments included Google, Ask Jeeves, Paypal, Good Technology, Opsware, and Brightmail.
He was named among Forbes Magazine Midas list of top “deal-makers” in 2008 and is actively involved in numerous philanthropic endeavors. He is vice chairman of the UCSF Medical Foundation, board member of The Tiger Woods Foundation, SF Homeless Connect and the Blacked Eyed Peas-PeaPod Academy Foundation.
“I set a goal, then I worked hard to get there. And if you can do it, anyone can do that. Anyone can make a decision to set a goal for yourself and then if your work at it, you can meet those goals,” Conway stressed.
The kids eagerly and intently listened.
Twelve-year-old Aljen Santiago, who showed Montana around, was amazed with her chance to be with him up close.
“I really didn’t have to prepare for this because I had a lot of practice before with other people. I am used to it and I know what to say,” Aljen revealed. “I have seen him on TV but I have never met him before. I think it feels really cool to finally meet and to tour him around. I have always like to meet someone from the 49ers.”
West Bay kid Edrick Lesigues learned that kids like him should “pick their dreams and follow them. Play hard like him and do your best. This is a good message for the kids because the kids are kind of lazy right now.”
Antonio Yap, 5th grade student, thought that their guests’ message of non-violence “is a great message.”
“It helps us learn because lots of kids do lots of bad stuff now,” Yap added. “It helps the community because there are lot of murders and hit and runs.”