There are three prominent emblems on the back of Alfredo Gutierrez’s San Francisco 49ers helmet: two national flags, one for America and another for Mexico, and the NFL logo.
All three mean a lot to him and his family.
Alfredo was born and played youth football in Tijuana, Mexico, before starting his collegiate football career first at Grossmont College in El Cajon, California in 2015 before receiving a scholarship to play for Tecnológico de Monterrey (referred to simply as Tec), in Nuevo León, Mexico. He thrived at Tec, which Alfredo refers to as the “Alabama of Mexico,” winning an ONEFA national title in 2019.
After going undrafted in the 2021 NFL Draft, Alfredo got the call that would change his life.
Alfredo joins 39 other players who, since 2016, have joined NFL rosters as a part of either the NFL Undiscovered or (most recently) the International Player Pathway Program (IPPP) an initiative to provide opportunities for deserving players no matter where those players come from. Gutierrez is one of only two Mexican-born players in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs also feature an IPPP rostered player in offensive lineman Chukwuebuka Godrick from Nigeria.
There is an assumption that to earn an opportunity to perform at the highest level of a given field, be it professional football, or fields like architecture, banking, or medicine, that you must first pursue an education from a prestigious university. In football, this assumption shows up as a fascination with “Power Five schools” and “blue blood” collegiate programs. But if you actually consider the educational backgrounds of the players and coaches competing in this year’s Super Bowl LVIII, you will find many more backgrounds like Alfredo Gutierrez.
Similar to analyses conducted previously, we reviewed the educational backgrounds of all 214 players and coaching staff of the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, the two teams competing in Super Bowl LVIII.
The 153 players on the active, reserve, and practice rosters of the Chiefs and 49ers represent (either as graduates or having finished their collegiate playing careers at) 93 different colleges.
The most represented universities among the two teams’ rosters are:
Middle Tennessee (4)
Only 55% of the 214 players and coaches involved in this year’s Super Bowl LVII came from Power Five colleges.
Some notable college backgrounds:
University of Cincinnati (KC TE Travis Kelce)
Saint John's University in Minnesota (SF G Ben Bartch)
Emory and Henry College (KC Offensive Assistant Coach Kevin Saxton)
Samford University (KC WR Montrell Washington)
South Carolina State University (SF DT Javon Hargrave)
There is even a local product from our backyard here in Sumner County, Tennessee as former Gallatin High School and Georgia Tech running back Jordan Mason will compete on Sunday in his second Super Bowl with the 49ers.
We love the fact that when you actually look at the educational backgrounds of people at the top of their fields, whether it be CEOs, neurosurgeons, musicians, and even NFL players and coaches, we see a much more diverse picture than most people assume. There are more than 24,000 colleges and universities in the world, and nearly 4,000 in the U.S. alone, each with their own approach to helping you achieve your most audacious dreams, if you are willing to work for it.
While their educational backgrounds vary widely, their approach to their work is singular in nature. To perform at this level, these individuals have committed themselves to constant improvement, relentless effort, and building a strong collaborative team. That is what it takes to perform at an elite level. It’s not about what college you went to; it is about how to approach your craft, how to show up for your teammates, and how to consistently build new skills over time. It’s not about where you go educationally, it’s about your choices and actions.
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