ELK GROVE, Calif. — As the 49ers get ready to take on the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship this Sunday, ABC10 sat down to discuss Arik Armstead's journey to the NFL with Joe Cattolico who was Armstead's football coach during his time at Pleasant Grove High School.
While coaching the Pleasant Grove High School football team, Cattolico knew that Armstead had the potential to play in the NFL.
"Arik is an athletic lottery winner from a size and physical ability standpoint, so I think everyone knew he had the potential to make it in the NFL," Cattolico told ABC10.
As a result of his hard work and dedication, following his high-school graduation in 2012, Armstead committed to the University of Oregon to play football. In 2015, Armstead was drafted by the 49ers in the first round of the NFL draft.
As someone who both coached Armstead and taught him in the classroom, Cattolico said he hopes he had a small part in helping him on his journey to the NFL.
"I hope that myself and the other coaches helped to hold Arik accountable when he was with us to help him reach his full, highest potential," Cattolico said.
Cattolico describes Armstead as someone who is very talented and hardworking both on and off the field as he comes from a family that instilled tremendous values in him.
"He's just the kind of person who uplifts everybody, makes everybody feel good about themselves and is always there to help and support you to figure out how we can make the people around us more successful and happier in life," Cattolico said.
Outside of his career with the 49ers, Armstead cares a great deal about his hometown of Sacramento, especially when it comes to education.
Armstead created the Armstead Academic Project which works to ensure students in the Sacramento Public School system have direct access to a quality education no matter their socioeconomic status.
"Arik is a better human than he is a football player, which is saying a lot because he’s one of the best football players I have had the pleasure of knowing," Cattolico said.
In September 2021, Armstead and the Sacramento-based Bayside Church donated more than $200,000 to start an after-school program.
Armstead is the 49ers' nominee for this season's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. The award goes to the player with the most outstanding community service. In December he received the team's Walter Payton Award honor.
Cattolico has had the opportunity to support Arik in his community endeavors by helping him host the football camps he runs each summer as a way to inspire younger generations.
“I always use Arik as an example to the younger players I coach as someone who uses the sport of football as a way he can help himself to be more successful in his life and in the community," Cattolico said. "I think every parent hopes their sons and daughters grow up to be someone with the high level of character that Arik has."