SANTA CLARA — On Wednesday afternoon, as the local media walked into their designated work room, they were greeted by a pair of pizzas from Legends Pizza Co., located in San Jose.
Along with the pies, a note was left on each scribe’s desk that read: “Thank you for your help and support with this year’s WPMOY [Walter Payton Man of the Year] Charity Challenge.” The hand-written letter was signed by Gould, himself urging those reading it to accept the lunch as a token of his appreciation.
“I hope you guys enjoyed it,” Gould said. “Sorry you might be a little heavier but you’ll just have to go to the gym a little extra, that’s all.”
Last week, Gould was named one of 32 nominees to win the coveted award, which was established in 1970 and named after the famous Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton. Along with his nomination, Gould was also chosen as an alternate for the 2019 Pro Bowl on Tuesday and was also named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday morning. On Wednesday, Gould and the 49ers got ready for the Bears, the team that brought Gould into the league.
“Obviously the Walter Payton Man of the Year award is a big deal. I know what it means,” Gould said. “Having played in Chicago and being third in voting right now, I’m very thankful for the help I’ve received.”
Coming out of Penn State in 2005, Gould played the first 11 seasons of his career in a Chicago uniform. During that span, he made over 85 percent of his field goals and set the team record for most points scored (1,207) and field goals made (276).
After coming to San Francisco to play under head coach Kyle Shanahan in 2017, Gould has continued his success, hitting 53 of the 68 kicks he’s attempted (95.8 percent), including Sunday’s game-winning field goal against the Seattle Seahawks. The kick snapped a 10-game losing streak against Seattle that dated back to Dec. 8, 2013.
That performance, which also included three other field goals and two extra point makes, earned Gould his NFC special teams POW nod.
“The thing that’s special about it is what the guys around me are doing,” Gould said. “The O-linemen and the big fellas that battle through injuries and go out there every week, they’re the guys who are taking 600 pounds on.
“I just stay back there and don’t get touched. And then you have [49ers punter] Bradley [Pinion] and [long snapper] Colin [Holba]… For us, it’s a special run and it’s an exciting honor to get but I think it’s more important for everyone here.”
In addition to being named the player of the week, Gould was also chosen as an alternate for the 2019 Pro Bowl, along with teammates DeForest Buckner and Mark Nzeocha. Forty Niners fullback Kyle Juszczyk was named as a starter for the NFC, while tight end George Kittle was selected as a reserve to represent San Francisco on January 27, in Orlando, Florida.
“I think it’s my seventh or eighth time I’ve been an alternate so I’m not a stranger to the feeling of being an alternate,” Gould said. “I’m happy and excited for [New York Giants kicker] Aldrick [Rosas]. He’s had just of great of a season as well. He deserves it.”
For Gould, while the feeling of receiving the aforementioned recognition from the league means a lot, nothing trumps what he’s been doing in regards to the WPMOY Charity Challenge.
In 2011, Gould founded “The Goulden Touch Foundation,” which has contributed over $650,000 to families in need. In addition, Gould’s celebrity golf tournament, first held in 2010, has raised more than $2 million in just the last three years.
“I’m really humbled because I know what that award means to the organization,” Gould said. “Understanding what [Payton] did on and off of the field and having a really good understanding of what he symbolized, it’s just something I’ve always tried to model myself after.
“Our organization takes pride in giving back to the community … doing that is pretty special.”
— During their first practice of the week, in preparation for Sunday’s meeting with the NFC North-leading Bears, Shanahan announced that three players did not participate.
Strong safety Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder), linebacker Mark Nzeocha (groin) and offensive tackle Joe Staley (vet day) were all non-participants, while cornerback K’Waun Williams (knee) was limited.
— Running back Matt Breida was not listed on the injury report but it is known that he is dealing with a nagging ankle injury that has persisted over the course of the last six weeks.
While Breida did play against the Seahawks on Sunday, the bothersome ankle prevented the second-year back from appearing in overtime. Instead, Shanahan and the 49ers offense opted to play Jeff Wilson, who had fumbled once earlier in the game.
“The fumble was huge, especially doing it a few weeks in a row,” Shanahan said. “That’s why he didn’t get many opportunities. But, when Breida came out, Jeff’s the one we talk to throughout the game.”