I started watching the NFL in the 1986. Flicking around the TV on a Sunday evening, I happened across a game (It was the Patriots v the Rams) and was fascinated by the colour and excitement buzzing around my small Radio Rentals portable TV. I had no idea what was going on, but I enjoyed the physicality and spectacle that was NFL football. I watched each week, favouring the LA Rams as they’d been the first team I’d seen (Eric Dickerson had made an instant impression on me). Come playoff time, and I was watching the playoff game between San Francisco and the Giants. Yes, that playoff game, the painful 49-3 defeat. I watched Jim Burt level Joe Montana in that game, and felt terribly sorry for him as we wobbled off to the sidelines with a nasty concussion. Joe Montana also made an instant impression on me. From that game, I decided that San Francisco would be my team, and proceeded to learn more about the game, and the 49ers. Many people choose their teams who are champions at the time, most people I knew who liked football even a little were Bears fans etc. I chose a team that had been badly beaten, but couldn’t help liking.
By this time, I was consumed, buying every magazine, book and video my paper round would allow. If Dr. Ken Thomas ever got rich, I’m convinced I had a good part in helping him. I learnt the game, I even went to watch our local Budweiser league team and joined the youth team as a halfback. I was Roger Craig in my mind (and only in my mind).
1987 was a tough year again, a great record sadly ended by the Vikings in the playoffs. I don’t mind admitting I had some tears that night, and not just because my AFRTS radio reception kept dropping out.
In 1988 I went to Wembley to the American Bowl to see San Francisco play Miami. I saw Joe Montana play, albeit for just a few series. But, from my endzone place, I watched the team run off at halftime. There’s little me, in a satin jacket I had had for my Birthday, a #16 jersey and trucker cap. Waving like I was possessed…would Joe see me? Strange looks from the neutral, placid British crowd as I waved and shouted…as he ran off, I swear he looked my way, just for a fleeting moment I’m positive he looked right at me. It was such a great moment and whether it really happened or if I imagined it, I took that memory with me. Joe Montana was firmly cemented as God and any other deity you can name.
This wonderful season was finished with the greatest Superbowl I ever saw. When John Taylor caught that pass, I did a vertical leap that would have got me on any NFL team. I made a Champions banner and hung it out from my bedroom window. Most people thought I’d gone mad. My top present that year was a custom printed #33 jersey with Craig on the back. Only problem was, everyone thought my name was Craig. But I digress…
My love for the 49ers and football in general led me to start drawing and painting my favourite players right back from a young age. Since then, I have painted literally hundreds of NFL players and scenes. I’ve been exhibited in the US, produced work for the NFL and thanks to my good friend Brian Davis, had work presented to one of my all-time favourite players, Roger Craig, a real high point! I still paint with as much enthusiasm as my first sketch of Joe Montana in 1986, and hope to continue improving and sharing my work.
1989 was the finest season I’d witnessed, an amazing year. My best friend was a Broncos fan, and we had some good banter leading up to the Superbowl. I didn’t hear from him for over a week after the game. My bedroom wall was adorned with posters, pullouts and clippings. I had a Joe Montana scrapbook. I drew 49ers pictures constantly. Everything was red and gold.
And the thing is, it still is today.
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