Patrick Walsh’s loyalty to the 49er has been deep and unwavering since he was 5 years old. Well, for the most part. The Serra High football coach learned the hard way to make an exception whenever his beloved 49ers face the Green Bay Packers.
As long as All-Pro offensive tackle David Bakhtiari is a packer, Walsh will set aside his passion for his childhood team for a day to root for his former star player.
“It’s always going to be tough, but when it comes down to it, I’ve got blood in the game,” said Walsh, who will go on to beat the 49ers on Saturday night and lead the Packers to the NFC Championship. “As much as I love the Niners, I’d love to see David get the ring.”
Walsh knows better than to publicly waver when two NFC powers collide. Otherwise, he himself will hear about it with great confidence. Before the last 49ers-Packers game, a reporter asked Walsh about his core interest, and the longtime coach tried to maintain his neutrality. He won’t make such a mistake again.
“I was trying to play it in the middle and David read it and he called me. He said, ‘Hey, what’s going on? You’re not rooting for me?!’ Walsh said on Thursday. “So for me, I’m on the boil.”
Truly, Saturday night for the Buckeye Packers will be easier for Walsh if Green Bay and Tampa Bay play for the NFC Championship next week. After all, Tampa Bay has its own remarkable Serra High alum in Tom Brady, who is also friends with Walsh.
“If that happens, we’ll have a problem,” Walsh said with a laugh.
Ironically, Bakhtiyari’s family has also invested heavily in the 49 residents. David’s older brother Eric Bakhtiari played parts of two seasons with 49ers. David’s father, Karl Bakhtiari, has devoted most of his life to the 49ers, having been a season ticket holder since they played at the Kizer Stadium.
But David and his wife Debbie have made some distance from the 49ers in the last nine years since David was drafted by Green Bay. Now they usually make it to Levi’s Stadium only when the Packers arrive in town. For them, weekends during football season are usually spent attending their youngest child’s games across the country.
On Friday afternoon, the couple were on their way to the airport to catch a flight to Green Bay, which has become the family’s second home. Like all Packers fans, he spent the day not knowing whether his son would even be able to play on Saturday nights. David, who just two weeks ago made his first appearance after tearing his ACL last season, is still listed as suspect.
“I think they want to guess the 49ers a little bit,” Carl said during a phone conversation while driving into the airport. “But it’s going to be a game-time decision.”
Regardless of David’s condition on Saturday or even whether the Packers go ahead, it won’t change his son’s incredible ride on his NFL journey. David has risen from relative obscurity to become an All-Pro three times and any pro football focus has rated the No. 1 left tackle in the NFL prior to the season.
“It blew our minds,” admitted Carl. “We knew he could be good. I didn’t know he could be that good.”
Bakhtiari’s transformation from a goofy, sometimes lazy high school kid who preferred his role as Cera’s class clown to that of a 30-year-old, dominating player who has become the leader of men in the NFL. However, she got some tough love from her high school coach to set her on her path.
Walsh still can’t help but narrate the story of how he was attracted to Bakhtiari’s attention while he was messing around during weight training in the spring of his junior year at David Cera.
“David wasn’t putting in the effort we think he should have. So I turned to him and said, ‘You’re never going to play football for me here at the Serra,'” Walsh said “He was not happy.”
Walsh immediately called Carl and Debbie to the house and warned them about what had happened.
“I told him two things are going to happen, your son is going to come home and either want to leave, which we both know was never going to happen; and he probably wants to kill his coach. I told him ‘Let’s make sure none of those things happen,'” Walsh said.
Walsh, who had known Carl and Debbie for years after their older sons, Eric and Andrew, acted for them, then delivered a final message to the Bakhtiyars.
“I said, ‘Oh, and you don’t have to pay for his college,'” Walsh said.
Debbie still vividly remembers part of Walsh’s conversation with him.
“He said, ‘If you let me go, I’ll take that little boy and give you a man back and he’ll be a great player,'” Debbie said on Friday.
To this day, the 6-foot-4, 311-pound David would occasionally remind Walsh that he didn’t really like him very much at the time. But Walsh said he had a pretty good idea of what inspired David, who he saw as a fighter, especially when he felt humiliated by someone.
Not only did Bakhtiari become Serra’s hard-working player, he used his athleticism and some elite footwork to become one of the state’s top offensive linemen. This earned him a scholarship to Colorado.
He acquitted himself so well in Colorado that he decided to enter the NFL Draft after his junior season. However, it will not take long for Bakhtiyari to find inspiration again.
Bakhtiari was projected to be a second-round pick in 2013 and a draft night party was planned in his honor in Palm Springs, where partygoers would continue to celebrate at a country music festival later that night. It turned out to be an unforgettable night for the wrong reason. “I’ve never been the part of so much discomfort in my life,” Walsh said.
A large group of Bakhtiari’s family and friends had gathered to watch the draft with great anticipation for him, especially since three of the first four picks were offensive. Then they all waited. and waited. And waited some more until it became clear that Bakhtiyari would not be picked up that night.
He was so struck by despair that Bakhtiyari asked his friends and family to go to the concert without him. Only Bakhtiari, his girlfriend, and Walsh were left in the room, who really seemed to be okay with ignoring their former player.
“He was so mad,” Walsh recalled. “But I told him, ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever happened to you because the anger inside you has always been a great motivator.’ ,
Bakhtiyari was finally picked by the Packers the next day in the fourth round.
It really couldn’t have worked any better for Bakhtiari or the Packers, even if it meant that his old high school coach sometimes had to pit him against his favorite team.