George Kittle slipped on a T-shirt in the victorious locker room that proclaimed the 49ers as 2023 NFC West champions.
The shirt he wore from the team hotel to the stadium on Sunday had great significance, too.
Across Kittle's chest was an image of a player from a bygone era, holding a football and sporting a leather helmet with no facemask.
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Pictured was Kittle’s late grandfather, “Bruisin’ Bub” Krieger.
“He played football the right way: violent, physical,” Kittle told NBC Sports Bay Area. “And he was also No. 85, which is pretty sick. What are the odds of that?”
Kittle picked Sunday to wear the shirt for his grandmother, “Lucky” Krieger, who attended the 49ers’ 45-29 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. She turns 101 on Jan. 6.
“Lucky” attended the 49ers’ season finale last season, also against the Cardinals, at Levi’s Stadium. On Sunday, she watched her grandson catch two passes for 54 yards.
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With 450 career receptions and 6,119 yards, Kittle became the fourth tight end in NFL history with at least 450 receptions and 6,000 yards in his first seven seasons. He joins Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce in the select group.
It is clear Kittle takes pride in his old-school style of play, and that is part of the reason he feels such a close connection to his grandfather.
“Bruisin’ Bub” had a scholarship to play football at Iowa but got homesick and enrolled at nearby Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
He had a storied college football career and earned induction into the Iowa Wesleyan Athletic Hall of Fame. He turned down an NFL offer from the Chicago Cardinals to help run the 160-acre family farm on which he grew up.
“Bruisin’ Bub” and “Lucky” were married in 1941. They raised 10 daughters (with no sons), including Jan Krieger, George's mom. Jan was a star basketball player at Drake University, averaging 13.8 points per game over his four-year career. She also played softball.
“Bruisin’ Bub” passed away at his home in 2011 at the age of 91.