Matt Breida's long road to 49ers' starting running back, through his eyes


SANTA CLARA -- He received six scholarship offers, but none from a school in a power conference. He wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, nor was he drafted.

Overcoming the odds is nothing new to 49ers second-year running back Matt Breida, who enters Week 5 of the NFL season as the league’s third-leading rusher behind Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams.

Breida knows his birth mom was 5-foot-1, and his biological father was 6-1. He knows he has an older brother and an older sister. He knows his birth mom gave him up for adoption in hopes it would lead to a better life.

That’s all he knows. And, at least for now, that’s all he has ever cared to know.

Mike and Terri Breida, a white couple who moved from the Philadelphia area to outside of Tampa, Fla., are the only parents he knows. And that is why he has never been too curious about his birth family, Breida said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

Breida learned plenty about adversity growing up. He saw the sacrifices that were made for him and his brother, Josh, who is two years younger than Matt and also adopted.

“Some nights my dad wouldn’t eat or he’d eat very little to make sure me and my brother be full and be able to wake up the next day and go to school,” Matt Breida said.

Mike Breida contracted a life-threatening case of meningitis that left him permanently disabled. Terri has been confined to a wheelchair since a serious car accident in 2006 left her unable to work.

Sports helped keep the young football player on the right path, he said. And from an early age he had it in his mind that he could someday play in the NFL.

“Me and my dad would sit on the couch and watch football,” Matt Breida said. “We’d always watch the NFL. I always told myself that’s where I want to get. So I started playing, and I was 6 years old. And I loved it ever since. I’m blessed to be in the position I am today.”

Breida, who is listed at 5-10 and 190 pounds, opened the season sharing the 49ers’ lead-back role with veteran Alfred Morris after Jerick McKinnon sustained a season-ending knee injury one week before the regular-season opener. Breida has established himself with 313 yards rushing on 41 carries. His 7.6-yard average is best in the NFL among running backs with more than 10 rushing attempts.

As has been the case for his entire life, all Breida needed was an opportunity.

He signed with the 49ers as an undrafted rookie in 2017 from Georgia Southern after building a bond with running backs coach Bobby Turner and run game coordinator Mike McDaniel. He outworked and outshined Joe Williams, a fourth-round draft pick, from the day of his arrival in Santa Clara.

In April, Breida married his high school sweetheart, Silvana, a soccer player who spent a season as a kicker on the varsity football team with Breida. He thinks about starting a family and helping take care of Mike and Terri Breida, the people who made sacrifices for him every step of the way.

“Growing up, I wanted to put myself in position to eventually take care of them one day for what they did for me,” Breida said. “I could be in a worse position. I could’ve been in a foster home. Who knows how it would’ve ended up? So I want to give back as much as I can and make them proud.”

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