Going into game five with a 1-3 record, the 49ers are struggling. This has been the case since Harbaugh. With the odds in their opponent’s favor almost weekly, there are a few assets in San Francisco that provide glimmers of hope for a team turn-around. First, Chip Kelly. This is his first season leading the team. After a successful stint at Oregon and a mediocre couple of years in Philly, perhaps he’s the team’s answer. Or will we see him returning to Saturday’s in Baton Rouge or Austin? Second, the 49ers have a nice representation of Texas high school athletes on their roster. The boys from the Lone Star State are no strangers to challenge, which is exactly what this team must conquer if they’re to return to a winning record.
Phil Dawson, Lake Highlands
Phil Dawson was a clutch kicker for Lake Highlands High School. While there, he kicked a 52-yard game-winning field goal in a 1992 playoff game. In addition to kicker, he played offensive tackle. He earned All-American and Southwest Region Offensive Player of the year. Following his time with the Wildcats, Dawson played kicker for the Texas Longhorns. Following suit of his game-winning field goal in high school, he did the same in a 17-16 win over Virginia with a 50-yard field goal. As a Longhorn, Dawson was named first-team All-American and All-Big 12. Prior to joining the 49er’s in 2013, he spent time with the Raiders, Patriots, and Browns. Dawson still holds the record for most consecutive field goals made with 29 and most field goals in the game with 6 for the Browns. In March, Dawson signed a new 1-year deal with the 49ers. He is also known for the establishment of the “Phil Dawson Rule” which clarifies that if the football crosses through the uprights, it is good, regardless of what happens to the ball afterwards.
Jeremy Kerley, Hutto
Jeremy Kerley was quarterback for the Hutto High School squad that marched through the post-season and contended for state in 2005. Although they lost by three points, it was the first championship game in school history. Kerley went on to play wide receiver and return specialist for Texas Christian University. He was named Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Year. This was partly due to 563 punt return yards in a single season. During this time, he was ranked #2 in the country for punt returns and #2 for kickoff returns. Kerley was selected by the New York Jets in the 5th round of the 2011 draft. He remained with the Jets until 2016 at which time he signed a one-year contract with the Lions in March of this year. In August, he was traded to the 49ers.
Vance McDonald, East Chambers
Vance McDonald played tight end and defensive end for Easter Chambers High School. He lettered three years and was named all-district in both positions. He helped lead his team to district championship victories his junior and senior years. After graduating in 2008, McDonald joined the Rice Owls. As the team’s tight end, he was named First-Team All-Conference USA. He has remained with San Francisco since they selected him as the 55th pick of the 2013 draft. Coming from small town Texas, the stage is not too big for McDonald. While the San Francisco quarterback position remains an area of concern, McDonald is reliable and consistent for whoever is taking snaps.
Christian Ponder, Colleyville Heritage
Christian Ponder played quarterback for Colleyville Heritage. His final year with the school, he racked up 1,214 passing yards and 20 touchdowns and 911 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He earned a First-Team All-District distinction. He followed the same path as his father and spent his collegiate career playing for Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles. Ponder stayed with the Seminoles during the coaching transition to Jimbo Fisher. His senior year, he earned the James Tatum Award, National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award, and the Bobby Bowden Award. The Minnesota Vikings selected Ponder as the 12 th pick of the 2011 draft. He also spent time with the Raiders and Broncos prior to signing with San Francisco in August of this year. As of now, Ponder has not capitalized on his NFL starts, however, with the questions surrounding the quarterback position, this could be an opportunity to make his mark.
Marcus Cromartie – Mansfield Timberview
Marcus Cromartie hails from Mansfield Timberview where he was ranked in the top 100 of Texas players. TexasHSFootball.com selected him as a member of the honorable mention all-state team during his high school stint. He was also named first team all-district his senior year. Cromartie attended the University of Wisconsin for his collegiate career. There, he recorded 62 tackles, 1 interception, and 13 pass breakups his senior year and was a member of the 2011 and 2012 Big Ten Championship teams. After leaving the Badgers, Cromartie spent time with the Chargers in 2013 and the Browns in 2014. He was first cut by the 49ers before being signed by the team in November of last year. Despite his transition from team-to-team, Cromartie remains a high-level corner.