SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Much like her favorite NFL team, Rita Carvalho didn't expect quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to remain on the San Francisco 49ers this deep into the offseason. But for Carvalho, Garoppolo's extended stay by the Bay has turned a social media tribute into a labor of love.
Love for Garoppolo. Love for the Niners. Love for her boyfriend. Above all, love of art. All of that, combined with some inspiration from the Major League Baseball lockout and the world of pop culture, led Carvalho -- a 25-year old artist living in Porto, Portugal -- to begin drawing Garoppolo every day until the Niners trade him.
When she made that decision Feb. 3, Carvalho, like most, believed it might mean a month or two of drawings. A right shoulder surgery for Garoppolo, an entire free-agent period, NFL draft and offseason program later and Carvalho is so used to drawing Garoppolo that she can now do it from muscle memory.
Saturday marked Carvalho's 150th day, though it's still unclear when the end will arrive.
"I thought he was going to get traded sooner," Carvalho said, laughing. "I started working on something for the end but then I stopped because I had to continue to make the every day drawing."
While Garoppolo's status and Trey Lance's ascension to starting quarterback after being selected in the first round of the 2021 draft have been constant discussion points this offseason, Carvalho's drawings have offered a fun respite from the speculation. The digital drawings, which Carvalho does on her iPad with an Apple Pencil and a program called "Procreate," depict Garoppolo in an array of pop culture settings and often feature guest appearances from teammates, coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.
The feedback on those drawings has been so positive Carvalho and her boyfriend, Filipe Sousa, created a shop that allows customers to purchase T-shirts, hoodies, prints and coffee mugs with their favorite drawings.
Among the most popular, according to Carvalho, is the "Lion King" inspired drawing that shows Garoppolo in the spot of Rafiki holding up Lance in the role of Simba. Another favorite is a tribute to "Titanic" in which Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle take the place of Rose and Jack at the front of the doomed ship. And finally, an ode to "Dirty Dancing" in which Shanahan is seen holding Garoppolo over his head, has also done well.
Garoppolo has seen the drawings and gotten a kick out of them.
"Rita, I really appreciate it," Garoppolo told ABC 7 television in San Francisco. "It's really cool, just the uniqueness to it. We'll see how many more you've got to draw."
While drawing Garoppolo every day might seem like a daunting task, especially as his situation has lingered, it's become an every day staple for Carvalho and Sousa, both natives of Portugal. In some ways, it's strengthened their relationship, which is only fitting since it was Sousa who introduced Carvalho to American football, the 49ers and Garoppolo.
The pair began dating two years ago. At the time, Sousa had already become a fan of the 49ers after catching a random game in the early 2010s and researching the team after the game was over. As a means to try to get Carvalho invested in his passion about the Niners, he steered her to Garoppolo.
"He was like, 'I think you're gonna like this player,'" Carvalho said. "And he introduced me to Jimmy because he was handsome. So, he thought that I would like him."
Sousa was right and the couple began following the 49ers together. Although there's an eight-hour time difference between the Pacific Time Zone and Porto, Carvalho and Sousa often stay up late to watch games. If it's a prime-time game, they'll record it and shut off all communication with the outside world to watch spoiler-free the next day.
Not long after Garoppolo said his goodbyes via a postseason Zoom news conference in early February, Sousa told Carvalho the Niners were preparing to trade Garoppolo. Carvalho studied art in high school and graduated from ESAD College of Arts and Design in Matosinhos, Portugal, in 2021. In an effort to dive further into her art, she's taking what she calls a "gap year."
As a devout reader and participant on the 49ers Reddit page, Sousa suggested Carvalho do a drawing of Garoppolo and post it to Reddit. There was no specific inspiration for that first drawing other than tribute for what he'd done for the Niners. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Inspired by a baseball fan who had been drawing Mike Trout every day during the MLB lockout, Carvalho decided to draw Garoppolo every day until he's traded.
Quickly, the suggestions for more drawings came rolling in. Many fans from the United States have reached out, but the solicitations are global. Carvalho has gotten notes with encouragement and ideas from France, Germany, Ireland and Australia, among others. Those suggestions have been welcome as generating ideas has become the most time-consuming aspect of this journey.
Nearly every night, Carvalho and Sousa, 28, will sit down and brainstorm ideas, diving deep into pop culture and current events. That most of those pop culture ideas are based on American shows and movies is no coincidence. Sousa, who is a big fan of the "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Lethal Weapon" inspired drawings, said most of the shows, music, movies and even internet memes are just as popular in Portugal.
Once the pair comes up with an idea, they will move on to discussing various aspects of the drawing, where Garoppolo fits in and ways to put their own spin on it so it's recognizable as their unique brand.
"It's really brought us together even more because it's something we talk about every day nowadays," Sousa said. "It's something we have to share. ... I'm so proud of her."
More often than not, the drawings are done once a day but occasionally Carvalho will knock out a handful and send them out daily via her phone.Each rendering takes Carvalho between a half hour and an hour depending on how intricate. Like any artist, Carvalho has moments where things aren't clicking and might need to step away. She always comes back, though, and she tries to do them in one sitting.
Carvalho has now drawn Garoppolo so many times she could essentially do it blindfolded. The venture has given her plenty of practice for her dream profession. She, of course, pays special attention to Garoppolo's famous chin line and eyebrows, but says a few other Niners like Kittle, receiver Deebo Samuel and fullback Kyle Juszczyk can be also be drawn from muscle memory.
"I really want to be an artist and I was really giving it all this year to just try to put my art out there," Carvalho said. "And this was a good way to have feedback and to start creating a portfolio. ...I never thought last year that I would be having these amazing people sending me messages that they love my art. I'm very, very grateful that I can do my art every day."
Just how much longer Carvalho will be doing this remains to be seen. Garoppolo is expected to be cleared to resume throwing in early July and a move could come soon after. Shanahan said again recently he expects Garoppolo to "most likely be traded" after he returns from his shoulder surgery.
Which, of course, begs the question of what Carvalho has planned for the grand finale.
"People are really expecting something big for the end," Carvalho said. "I can't disappoint."