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FORMER 49ER ON MISSILES

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By Patrick Lujan

Riki Ellison (50) celebrates a 49ers touchdown in the 1985 NFC Championship game against the Chicago Bears. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Riki Ellison (50) celebrates a 49ers touchdown in the 1985 NFC Championship game against the Chicago Bears. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

There are similar strategies between football and war. Rarely do the two actually link together.

Former San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Riki Ellison is that exception and for a couple of days, he’s been on Guam advocating the need for an effective missile defense system on our island through his non-profit group Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

“I got involved in missile defense before I got into the NFL,” the nine-year NFL veteran said. “I got a degree at USC while playing football there on International Relations and Strategic Studies. I heard (President) Reagan’s speech and I believed that making the world safer was to develop a missile defense system.”

It was in 2002 when Ellison put his passion and college degree into practice with the founding of his organization, in which he said started with about 20 people and are now more than 9000 members strong.

He came to Guam in support of the recently-deployed Army missile defense system on the heels of North Korea’s threat to Guam to use medium-range missiles with nuclear warheads.

Former 49er middle linebacker Riki Ellison on the Travis Coffman Show on K57. (courtesy photo)

Former 49er middle linebacker Riki Ellison on the Travis Coffman Show on K57. (courtesy photo)

“I’ve come here to celebrate that and recognize all the soldiers and engineers who put that together in Guam and protecting Guam,” Ellison said.

Ellison, who won two Rose Bowls at USC and three Super Bowls with the 49ers, toured both Navy and Air Forces bases and will spend time with the Army group that is here assigned with the missile defense system.

Usually, pro athletes use their celebrity status as an advantage to their follow on careers. That hasn’t been necessarily the case for Ellison in this career venture.

“I’m in such an opposite career that has nothing to do with athletics or football. Most of the people are not football fans in the engineering and rocket science career, so to some extent, it hindered me quite a bit, so I had to prove that I was more than just a football player.”

‘It’s a beautiful territory’

In his short time here, the island’s scenario and the warm waters of Tumon has drawn to his liking, unlike what he says is the mainland mindset of snakes and military bases.

“It doesn’t come across as the beautiful and natural island that it is. I am pleasantly surprised at how great this island is. I think it’s better than Kaua’i and Hawaii. It’s not over the top and it’s not crowded. I wish I had more time here. I didn’t realize how nice the island is.”

49er Territory

Ellison played on three Super Bowl winning 49er teams in the 1980's. (courtesy photo)

Ellison played on three Super Bowl winning 49er teams in the 1980’s. (courtesy photo)

To top things off, Ellison was shocked to see how much Guam is 49er Territory!

“It’s phenomenal to know that way out here, so far away from the mainland, we have a territory that is big-time 49ers. It’s great! I was in one of the stores today signing autographs – it was crazy.

“I was with the 49er franchise on Monday in San Francisco before I came here. They gave me some trinkets to give to the soldiers. The 49ers are aware of the relationship with Guam, but we probably should do better to have a stronger relationship.”

NOTES: He has visited over 250 sites around the world for MDAA…first player of New Zealand descent to play in the NFL…played with the great Ronnie Lott at USC, San Francisco and Los Angeles Raiders…drafted by the 49ers in 1983 along with Roger Craig and Jesse Sapolu…Son Rhett is currently a tight end with the Minnesota Vikings…Rhett also studied international relations at USC.

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