Among the 1,696 players currently in the NFL, 0.4 percent of them are Hispanic or Latino — and 49ers star linebacker Fred Warner is one of them.
Growing up in San Marcos, Calif., about 50 miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border, with Panamanian and Mexican roots, it didn’t take long for Warner to recognize and appreciate his heritage.
“Ever since I was born. My mom, her father is from Mexico and unfortunately he passed away when she was young,” Warner told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Carlos Ramirez. “But my [Los Angeles] family from that Mexican side, they’ve always been involved in my life.
“And there was always Spanish speaking in my home. My mom, my grandmother, my dad, everybody speaks fluent Spanish. So yeah, it’s been a part of my life.”
Warner’s Spanish is “más o menos,” but that never has affected how he represents his culture — not even as one of the best linebackers in the league.
The Mexico flag with its beautiful, bright and bold green, white and red colors since has been laid perfectly on the back of Warner’s 49ers helmet when the NFL allowed players to wear flag decals that represented their heritage during Weeks 4 and 5.
The gesture, though small to some, was huge for both Warner and Mexicans around the world.
“It meant a lot. It was cool,” Warner said. “It was something that was unique that we were able to do this year. There are a lot of different parts of me, but the Mexican flag is something that I did want to represent, it is important to me.
“I just want to show people that you can do anything you want in life if you put your mind to something, it doesn’t matter who you are or what background you come from. So from that community, if they look at me and they’re like ‘Yeah ok I can do that too,’ then that’s great.”
For Mexican fans, 49ers fans or not, watching Warner do his thing — and do it well — truly is a remarkable feeling. Watching one of their own represent their country so gracefully and with so much pride means the world to them.
“I mean I probably don’t realize the impact that it makes, you know? I hope it is a big one,” Warner said. “I don’t really get to see that but I know it’s there. It’s cool, it is something that is special to me. Hopefully, I can continue to represent well.”
The 49ers play at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City vs. the Arizona Cardinals on “Monday Night Football.” The 49ers technically are the away team, but it will be very close to home for Warner.
There’s still plenty of work to do around the league as far as representation goes, but it’s players like Warner who give hope back to those communities.
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