Perseverance, hard work and family support all helped Mike Person, the San Francisco 49ers starting guard, endure the trials and tribulation of professional football he told the Lima Rotary Club at the Veterans Memorial and Civic Convention at its noon luncheon Monday.
“It’s a pleasure to share my story and the journey that I have been on the last nine years and it has been one heck of a ride,” Person said. “Honestly the odds were against me to make it as far as I’ve have and all you need to do is believe in yourself and the support of your family and I had that in spades,” Person said. “Whether it be from extended family, Kelly’s family, my dad and my brother and my sisters they have been behind me every single step of the way and that means the world to me.”
Person spoke on his “wild” nine-year trek through the NF and how he went from a small-town in Montana to playing in the Super Bowl last year. Person is married to Bath High School graduate Kelly Schepp and enjoys visiting Lima and his in-laws and said it was an honor to speak .
Person grew up in Glendive, Montana, which is comparable to a Bluffton in terms of size, where ranching and farming are the main order of business.
“It is a great place to grow up in but one thing you learn at a very early age is you have to go out and find it yourself,” Person said. “You have to work for it and nothing is going to be given to you especially when you live three hours from the nearest airport. That was instilled early in me and something I’m proud to carry with me to this day.
Person is the youngest of four children and his passion for football came early with his father being the head football coach at the high school.
“My first love was football,” Person said. “My earliest memories were going to practice with my dad and probably getting in the way, way too much and being in places I shouldn’t be while he was trying to do his job. But it was really special to be with him to practice every day.”
Beginning in the seventh grade, Person began football life and admits that he was a late bloomer in high school but soon began to excel and get noticed. At Dawson County he was a three-time all-league selection and earned Class A All-Star honors as a junior and senior and was the team’s MVP.
“After I graduated from high school in 2006 I went to Montana State and that was a dream come true,” Person said. “It was really pretty special for me and my family because I came from small town and going to Montana State is the big time.”
At Montana State he was the starting right tackle and was a first-team All-Big Sky honors and was invited to the NFL combines and sure enough the came calling when the 49ers chose him in the seventh round in 2011.
From small schools to the pros
Person said coming from a small school adds a chip on your shoulder and the small school label doesn’t leave you unless you take it off yourself and the only way to do that is show up on day one and show that you can play.
“I thought I had finally made it. I thought that the hard part was done and I had got to the NFL. I’ve got it made now,” Person said. “I was wrong. Holy Smokes. I got to San Francisco and it was just the start.”
Jim Harbaugh was the head coach of the 49ers and Person described him as a mule train driver who will work you until you can’t work anymore. He added that if every team in the NFL were run like Harbaugh’s he did not want to be a part of it.
Person said the highlight of his NFL career came that first year when he met Kelly.
After a year in San Francisco, Person was released by the 49ers after training came in 2012 and he went to Indianapolis for 10 days where again he was released and found himself without a team. Seattle eventually signed him to the practice squad in week two. A call from Jacksonville almost had him moving from the Seahawks, but they activated him to the team and soon he was blocking for Russell Wilson in 2013
Person thought he had found a home in Seattle but was beset with injuries and eventually the Seahawks cut him.
“That is the hard thing about the NFL,” Person said. “It will chew you up and spit you out.”
It took only three days before he signed with the St. Louis Rams where he stayed for two years. After his contract ran out he became a free agent where he signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
Person said he finally felt like things were looking up career wise. He has signed and was moved to a new position center. While there he did get connected with Kyle Shanahan who was the offensive coordinator and now the San Francisco coach.
Being in Atlanta did not go as well as he thought and he was cut and he got the call while he was with Kelly looking at their second child’s ultra sound.
After a week, Kansas City called and he spent the rest of the season with them and that was tough because his wife stayed in Atlanta due to the pregnancy.
In Kansas City’s training camp the next season Person admitted that he did not perform as well as he expected and began contemplating his future.
“It definitely crossed my mind that I should retire but luckily the Colts came along and they picked me up again for the rest of the season,” Person said.
At Indianapolis, Person started 14 games including the five out of the last six. Person became a free agent and he was hoping his actions on the field would attract interest from another team.
Free agents can sign new contracts in March but the month went by and no one called. Three weeks into April and still no one was looking for his services and at age 30 retirement re-entered his mind.
Person went on a fishing trip and came back and received a call from New Orleans and he declined the offer.
“I said no I’m done I am going to retire from playing football and get into coaching and all that good stuff but it was always in the back of my mind that I love coach Shanahan’s offense so if they came and offered me a deal maybe I would try.”
As fate would have it that is exactly what happened and three weeks later San Francisco called. Person said this second time around he said he glad he did.
“It wast he best decision I have ever made because these last two years have been great,” Person said. “It has really revitalized my career. I guess the moral of it is..I don’t know there really isn’t one but keep on plugging away. There is going to be obstacles every single place around you whether you see them or not.”
Since re-joining the 49ers, he has been moved to guard and started 16 games and played in 14 games and helped the team make it to the Super Bowl..
In March of 2019 he signed a three-year extension with the team.