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(KTXL) — As the 49ers gear up for their NFC title game tilt with the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco will rely on local defensive star Arik Armstead.

While the defensive end from Pleasant Grove is well-known for his contributions on the field, it’s what he does away from the game that has made him a hometown hero.

“You’re looking at a guy who is big and strong and savvy at this point,” said high school football coach Joe Cattolico. “You know, he’s been in the league for a while, so he knows some tricks of trade and he’s a handful.” 

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That is what NFL teams see when they play against Armstead. Those who know him from his high school playing days see him differently. 

“Really selfless individual. Someone who was really interested in the betterment of everyone around him,” Cattolico said. 

Armstead’s prep football coach, Cattolico, is one of the many in the Greater Sacramento area who will be cheering on the Pleasant Hill alumnus in his second NFC title appearance. 

“It’s neat. You grow up as an NFL football fan, but it’s really special to know somebody who’s playing and to get to watch them progress and grow and do the things he’s doing,” Cattolico said. 

What Armstead is doing is providing a big boost to San Francisco’s run defense and pass rush. 

“I don’t think people realize how important Arik is to our D-line. The physicality he plays with, the fact that we can gameplan him and move him to different positions to stop certain run plays,” Kyle Shanahan said. “So, I think Arik, even when he’s not big on the stat sheet, like just watching the film and watching how he affects a game, to me that is so huge.” 

Armstead’s contributions on the field are rivaled only by his philanthropic efforts off the field. He has launched multiple initiatives, focused mainly on education, in the Sacramento area.

It’s earned him 49ers’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination for the second year in a row.

“You know, he’s really used his platform as a football player to kind of transcend and find ways to make a difference in our community and in the world, which is really special,” Cattolico said.