As the San Francisco 49ers’ longest-tenured player, defensive end Arik Armstead has seen pretty much everything. He’s seen the highs — such as San Fran’s trip to Super Bowl LIV following the 2019-20 season. He’s seen the lows — like the 49ers’ four consecutive losing seasons (2015-16 to 2018-19) at the beginning of his career.
So when Armstead takes the field on Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. ET against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII, nothing will catch him by surprise. Not even the talent of Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes; the Chiefs out-dueled Armstead and his 49ers, 31-20, in Super Bowl LIV just four years ago.
The 49ers allowed 21 fourth-quarter points that day, coughing up a 20-10 lead and helplessly watching as the franchise’s would-be sixth Super Bowl title slipped from their grasp. Armstead, a 49ers captain for the past four seasons, will do everything in his power to give this story a different ending.
Just like he’s done since 2017, Armstead started in all 12 games he played this year. He recorded 27 combined tackles and five sacks (third-most in his career) during the regular season, his ninth in the league after San Francisco drafted him with the 17th overall pick out of Oregon in 2015.
The 30-year-old continued his production once postseason football arrived, accounting for five tackles in two games. He also had a crucial second-half fumble recovery in the NFC championship game that fully swung momentum in favor of the 49ers. They would not relinquish it on their way to a 34-31 comeback victory against the Detroit Lions.
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) January 29, 2024
Armstead has been an anchor for a 49ers defense that ranked third in the NFL in points allowed per game during the regular season (17.5), and at 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, he looks every bit the part. But don’t let looks fool you — he’s a gentle giant.
In fact, Armstead has been San Francisco’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year each of the past four seasons. It’s an award given annually to commemorate a player’s excellence on the field and commitment to philanthropy and community impact off of it. The winner receives a $250,000 donation for a charity of his choice and will be announced at the NFL Honors on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.
Armstead helped found the Armstead Academic Project in 2019, which helps fund educational and health programs for under-served Sacramento and Bay area youth. Thus far, AAP has raised more than $2 million.
“I really take my career as what I do on and off the field. I think they go hand in hand,” Armstead, a Sacramento native, told the team’s official website after his nomination in December. “I want to use my blessing to bless others. I feel like it’s my responsibility. When it’s all said and done, I want to leave this earth a better place than when I was born. I think that’s what we should all strive to do.”
Honored and humbled to be nominated for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for the 4th year in a row.@ArmsteadProject and education equity is my passion and I can not thank everyone enough for supporting this cause every step along the way. #WPMOY #FTTB @49ers pic.twitter.com/PIm24l6qvR
— Arik Armstead (@arikarmstead) December 5, 2023
Armstead’s motivation for giving time and money to his community ultimately stems from his faith in Christ.
“Arik is such a genuine believer in Christ that he’s really going to do it His way,” Bob Balian, the founding pastor of Bayside Church of Midtown in Sacramento, said in 2015 ahead of Armstead’s NFL debut. “He’s going to do it Christ’s way.”
Armstead grew up attending Bayside, where his father, Guss, and uncle were two of the pastors, his mother, Christa, was the worship leader, and his sister, Alexis, was on staff.
“[Faith has] been my family’s whole life,” Armstead said at a Bayside men’s conference two days after being drafted by the 49ers. “It’s our foundation and what we rely on. … At a young age, you grow up in the church and it’s just what you do. And later it starts getting to the point where it becomes more serious and affects the way you want to live.”
He describes himself as a “God-fearing athlete” on X, and he was interviewed by Sports Spectrum leading up to Super Bowl LIV in February 2020.
“[Faith] is super important to me. That’s the foundation, my backbone, everything that I believe in,” he told Sports Spectrum. “My family instilled that into me at a young age and we grew up in the church. … Anything that we go through, that’s what we rely on is Christ.”
He continued later: “This year the biggest thing for me has been trying to find how He wants to use me and how I can glorify Him in what I do, and use my platform and resources to bless others and glorify Him.”
"God has blessed me in many ways and I think this year I'm trying to find out how He wants to use me and how I can glorify Him in what I do."
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) February 1, 2020
Armstead has experienced nearly everything in an NFL career, and he says he’s blessed to have done it all in a 49ers uniform. Yet, there’s one thing he hasn’t yet tasted, and that’s being the last team standing as Super Bowl champs.
– DeForest Buckner & Arik Armstead: Roommates, brothers in Christ
– Chiefs DB L’Jarius Sneed thanking God as he prepares for another Super Bowl
– 49ers safety Tashaun Gipson headed to 1st Super Bowl: ‘This is just God’
– Chiefs owner Clark Hunt going to 4th Super Bowl: ‘I want to give God the glory’
– QB Brock Purdy leads 49ers to SB: ‘Win or lose I’m going to glorify God’