Ahmad Brooks (Hylton) and NaVorro Bowman (Suitland) start at linebacker, considered one of the best units in the NFL if not the best, with Cam Johnson (Gonzaga) a backup. The 49ers’ starting tight end is Vernon Davis (Dunbar).
Brooks, the 2001 All-Met defensive player of the year and son of late Washington Redskins defensive tackle Perry Brooks, has 46 tackles and 6.5 sacks this season from his outside linebacker spot. The former University of Virginia standout returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown this season at New Orleans, also the site of the Super Bowl.
Brooks, who batted down a crucial third-down pass late in the NFC Championship win over Atlanta, was the only one of the 49ers’ four starting linebackers to not earn Pro Bowl or first-team All-Pro honors. That belies his high school reputation, when he was named 2001 USA Today defensive player of the year.
But the ex-Cincinnati Bengal has not gone unappreciated in San Francisco.
“[Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio] made the comment the other day that the smartest thing we did as an organization was pay Ahmad Brooks and keep him as a 49er,” Coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters recently. “And we would all concur with that. He’s done it with very little fanfare, in terms of how he talks about himself.”
Bowman led Suitland to its first state championship, a 14-7 Maryland 4A victory over Damascus in 2004. A junior at the time, Bowman carried nine times on the winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter of the state final and converted three first downs. A Post story noted that he clutched the game ball during the postgame celebration as he lay near midfield. Good thing he savored the experience — Bowman missed most of his senior year with a shoulder injury.
Davis, a 2002 All-Met who played at Maryland, is third on the 49ers in receptions with 41 catches for 548 yards and five touchdowns and has come up big before for San Francisco in the postseason.
As a sophomore tight end at Dunbar, he caught a 55-yard touchdown pass in a Turkey Bowl victory over Ballou to help the Crimson Tide become the first team in more than 30 years to win three consecutive league titles. Davis helped Dunbar win a fourth in 2001, but the program’s 39-game winning streak was snapped by H.D. Woodson in the 2002 Turkey Bowl in Davis’s senior year.
Johnson, an outside linebacker who has played in two games for the 49ers, was a third-team basketball All-Met in 2008, when he helped Gonzaga go 34-1 and win the City Title Game over Theodore Roosevelt. San Francisco picked Johnson in the seventh round in the 2012 draft after Johnson had led Virginia in sacks his senior year.