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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Thirteen-year offensive lineman Derrick Deese faces his former team for the first time and fondly reflects on his 49er years.
By JOANNE KORTH
Published November 21, 2004
TAMPA - He has been around a long time.
Bucs left tackle Derrick Deese is in his 13th NFL season, which means he has been in the league since the elder Bush was in the White House. Today, Deese makes his 126th career start against the 49ers, the team that gave him a chance way back when.
More than 7,000 huddles ago.
"It will be tough," said Deese, who played 12 seasons in San Francisco before signing with Tampa Bay as a free agent. "You've got a lot of friends on that team. You've shed a lot of blood with those guys. You've worked with them."
Deese, 34, never should have made it this far. He was not drafted out of Southern California in 1992, which means his odds of making an NFL roster were slim and none.
"And slim might be on vacation," he said.
He signed as a free agent with the 49ers, and because the odds weren't quite low enough, dislocated his elbow - the most painful thing he has ever felt - in his rookie training camp. He spent most of the next two years on injured reserve.
In 1994, he got the break he needed. Deese made the team and replaced an injured starter early in the season opener against the rival Raiders. Deese's first drive made history as Jerry Rice broke the NFL record for career touchdowns. Among the first to congratulate Rice in the end zone, Deese is in many of the photos commemorating the event.
He's proud of that.
From that unforgettable beginning, Deese started the next 15 games. The 49ers beat San Diego 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX in Miami. The moments after the clock expired were his most fun on a football field.
"To see all the fans and families on the field celebrating, that was something," he said.
Once at Candlestick Park - that's what they called 3Com Park in the old days - the 49ers offense huddled in the shadow of their end zone waiting for a television timeout to end. Young told teammates to look to his right in the back of the end zone.
A woman in the stands flashed Young for a second time.
"That was the funniest thing," Deese said.
Less humorous was the time Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski spit in the face of 49ers receiver J.J. Stokes on Monday Night Football in 1997.
"That's the nastiest thing I've seen," Deese said.
And by now, Deese has seen it all.
In the past dozen years, Deese has played all five positions on the offensive line. He has been to way too many training camps. He's had ankle surgery and foot surgery, twists, sprains and strains galore. He's had more body parts wrapped than King Tut.
But from 1997-2002, Deese was the anchor at the left end of the 49ers line. He blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher five times in Garrison Hearst and Charlie Garner. He blocked for a 3,000-yard passer six times in Steve Young and Jeff Garcia.
Deese has the jewelry to prove it: A diamond pinky ring from Garner, a Rolex watch from Hearst, and two watches from Garcia, a Rolex and an AquaSwiss.
"I don't have to buy any watches," Deese said.
Since hugging Rice in the end zone that first time, Deese has participated in more than 400 touchdown drives. He has celebrated more than 130 victories and made nine playoff appearances.
"A pretty good career," Deese said.
The most impressive of all those numbers: 13.
That's a lot of seasons.
"A lot of guys now think once you make it, that's it," Deese said. "It's funny, because they get by on skill and athletic ability at that point. They don't realize that once you play four, five, six years, then you have to do something different.
"You have to work out harder and harder and harder to be able to do what you did the year before. It's a grind, but at the same time I look at it as a challenge every week."