Former 49er Jamal Fountaine had a dream rookie season capped off by a victory in Super Bowl XXIX on his 24th birthday.
"Just being on that team -- you had some of the best players ever assembled on one team -- so it was a very special occasion."
This San Francisco native played six years in the NFL with the Niners, Panthers and Falcons, and then had a decision to make.
"As you know, when you get done playing football you need a little bit of a separation from it."
Fountaine earned a degree from Washington in construction engineering and dabbled in that and also did some coaching at Portland State. However, he felt a pull back to the Bay Area, as a fireman.
"I think pretty much like every firefighter they'll tell you they wanted to be a firefighter early on in life."
It's in his blood. His mother was a dispatcher for the Oakland Fire Department and both brothers are firemen. Fountaine's new team is the Alameda County Fire Department.
"This environment is a lot like our locker room in the NFL. Its trust based. You've got to trust the person next to you. You need to know your job and always strive to acquire knowledge."
He completed emergency medical technician school, then 16 weeks at the fire academy. He is now a year and a half away from being certified. He is waiting for his first real fire, just like his first game.
"When you're in the academy they expose us to fire-like situations. So you get a chance to feel the heat," Fontaine said. "I myself haven't had the big fire yet, but a lot of my academy mates have and we share the knowledge and information."< p> There are a lot of similarities in football and firefighting.
"The adrenaline rush, I get the locker room environment, and we know how to get along with people. We know how to think on our feet. Just that constant desire to train and get better. So far for me, the fire service has given me everything I wanted and more."
But there is one main difference.
"If you blow an assignment it can mean someone's life."
Fountaine has found his second calling and being a 37-year-old rookie fireman is not as bad as an NFL rookie.
"I don't have to go to Popeye's anymore to go buy chicken for the D-line."