San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Dalman looks to follow dad’s path
Center Drew Dalman shares many similarities with his dad, Chris, a fellow center who spent his sevenyear NFL career with the 49ers.
They both played at Palma High School in Salinas. And then played at Stanford. And it wouldn’t be a shock if Drew is drafted this coming week by the 49ers, who employ a 35yearold center, Alex Mack, and run a zoneblocking scheme for which Drew appears ideally suited.
The father and son appear to have duplicate bios. But Drew isn’t Chris 2.0. For starters, he’s a mechanical engineering major with a 3.8 gradepoint average who will graduate this spring. Chris? He began laughing when asked about his Stanford academic credentials.
“I was a political science major,” Chris said. “And this is embarrassing, but I’ll probably say I had like a 2.9 (GPA). I’ve said all along that Drew is a better student and player than me at every stage.”
The son with the higher GPA will likely go higher in the NFL draft. Twentyeight years after Chris was a sixthround pick of the 49ers, Drew is projected to be selected around the third or fourth round after he was a threeyear starter who capped his career in 2020 as a firstteam AllPac12 selection and a team captain.
Dalman, 6foot3 and 299 pounds, has the intelligence and athleticism that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan seeks in his offensive linemen. And the 49ers have gotten to know him in the predraft process: 49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster, who was Chris’ position coach at Stanford, put Drew through drills at his pro day.
Chris also was a college teammate of 49ers general manager John Lynch, who lived across the hall in a large house they shared with other friends at Stanford.
But Lynch wouldn’t be doing a favor for his buddy if the 49ers select his son. He’d be selecting a driven prospect who wrote a letter in fifth grade stating his biggest dream was to play football at Stanford. At Stanford, Drew entered as the lowestranked recruit in its 2017 class and became one of its most decorated.
“He made it a goal and he went and chased it,” Chris said of Drew’s desire to play at Stanford. “And that’s kind of his story. He makes a goal and gets after it. I couldn’t be prouder of the work he’s put in to get himself to this spot.”
The Dalmans have strong Stanford ties. Chris’ wife, Yanne, attended UC Davis, but she has a host of family members, including her dad, grandfather and an uncle, who went to Stanford. Drew’s sister, Kate, who attended Sonoma State, is in her fifth season as an operations and recruiting assistant for the Stanford football program.
Drew acknowledges Stanford head coach David Shaw didn’t have to make him much of a sales pitch.
“I was probably the most boring recruit of all time,” Dalman said. “I had my heart set on it from a young age and was willing to do whatever it took to get there.”
Four years later, Dalman said he’d welcome the chance to trade the cardinal and white for the red and gold, continuing in his dad’s football footsteps.
“It would definitely be cool and I’d be happy about that,” Dalman said. “I have no desire to break away. Or feel like I’m in the shadow or anything like that. If I went there, it would be great. If I didn’t, I’d be super excited about where I was going.”
Chris, a starter for three playoff teams in his final four seasons with the 49ers, has been busy since he was forced to retire due to a neck injury in 2001. He’s served as an offensive line coach with the Falcons (200506), Stanford (200708) and Palma High, where he was Drew’s position coach for three seasons. He’s now the president at Palma after serving as dean of students and vice principal at the school.
As far as football, Chris wanted his son to forge his own path and identity. And Drew appreciates that his father, a “dad first and a coach second,” wasn’t overbearing about passing along his football knowledge, which Drew began to seek out when he was older. Chris discovered his own love for the game, but he also developed the technical savvy many draft analysts have hailed in large part because of his dad. Drew’s technique allowed him to overcome a lack of size at Stanford, where he played lighter than his current weight.
But it was Chris’ steady, quiet example that was most influential. Drew notes his dad regularly works out at 4 a.m.
“There was always just this understanding of be prepared, work hard and once you’re there just compete as hard as you possibly can,” Dalman said. “And things work out. … If you’ve seen a framework that is successful, it’s pretty easy to say, ‘Hey, that will probably work for me, too. So I’ll probably follow that.’ ”
Those are gratifying words for any parent, but Chris stresses that his son, the one with the higher GPA who will be a higher draft pick, relentlessly worked his way to get to this position.
And his work stands on its own.