EL DORADO HILLS, Calif. (KTXL) -- There are several 49ers who started playing football right here in the central valley. Tight end Ross Dwelley played for Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills.
Photos of Dwelley still hang in head football coach Eric Cavaliere’s classroom. Cavaliere remembers during his freshman year, Dwelley played quarterback.
“Just a great kid. A really nice, very respectful, very intelligent kid,” Cavaliere said.
But just a few years later, his mother, Joan, remembers he took a break from the gridiron his junior year.
“At that point, he was pretty excited about baseball,” she said.
“Didn’t really see a future for him, I guess, as a quarterback,” Cavaliere said.
But Cavaliere says he didn’t give up on Dwelley and wanted him to come back to football his senior year -- this time, in a different role.
“I thought tight end would be a position for him that he could do pretty well with,” he told FOX40.
Not only did Dwelley do well -- he thrived.
Dwelley is now heading with the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, an achievement his father, Pete, says is sometimes hard to believe.
“It’s a dream come true for him and probably for us,” he said.
Those who know him say Ross Dwelley didn’t have an easy journey to the Super Bowl. Unlike most professional athletes, he was not drafted.
He played college at the University of San Diego without a scholarship. His father still has some of his highlights saved on his iPad.
“You know he wasn’t sure what he would do,” his dad said. “He just wanted to play football and they turned out to have a great program.”
His parents say after five years of college ball, Dwelley got the attention of 49ers assistant head coach Jon Embree, who also works with tight ends.
“He came down, spent a whole day with Ross. Had him diagramming plays on the board. Had him out on the field,” Pete Dwelley said. “Basically said, ‘One way or another we’re going to get you on our team.’”
In the past two seasons on the Niners, Dwelley has had some big opportunities where he did not disappoint.
“When (George) Kittle got injured and before him, when their fullback (Kyle) Juszczyk got injured, they could have gone out and got, you know, another higher profile player to come in and play those positions. But they stuck with Ross because they believed in him,” coach Cavaliere said.
“After Ross had his first game replacing Kyle Juszczyk, the first guy to meet him off the field was (49ers CEO) Jed York and said, 'You had the toughest job today.' And that was just ... I mean brings tears to your eyes,” Pete Dwelley told FOX40.
Now his former coach, parents and friends back home are excited to cheer him on during the biggest game of the year.
“That doesn’t happen to a lot of free agents,” his mom said. “I’m just proud of him fighting and believing in himself.”
Dwelley is the second Oak Ridge High School alumnus to play in the Super Bowl. Austin Collie was on the Indianapolis Colts in 2009 the season they went to Super Bowl XLIV. The Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints 31-17.