SANTA CLARA, Calif. — In what can only be described as a Hitchcock-ian plot twist, let it be known that the San Francisco 49ers‘ George Kittle — the world’s loudest and most enthusiastic proponent of tight ends everywhere — did not, in fact, create national tight end day.
This week, the NFL will celebrate the “holiday” for the second time. It’s something that started as an inside joke in the Niners’ locker room and has now become a league holiday on the fourth Sunday of October. The 49ers will get their chance to observe it against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox).
For most of the day’s short existence, Kittle has been credited as the founding father. But when asked about it this week, he set the record straight. Not only was Kittle not the first one to mention it, it wasn’t even a tight end who inadvertently blurted out the idea.
— George Kittle (@gkittle46) October 23, 2020
“I’m pretty sure it was a day all the tight ends were active, and so [quarterback] Jimmy G[aroppolo] was like ‘What is it, national tight end day?'” Kittle said.
A chance to celebrate their favorite position? Kittle and fellow tight end Garrett Celek picked up on Garoppolo’s cue.
“We were like ‘Yeah, it’s a holiday, man, it’s national tight end day,'” Kittle said. “And we just kind of rolled with it and Garrett Celek had a touchdown on that day, which that was our first annual Niners national tight end day.”
As the official founder of the holiday, Garoppolo offered a few more details on how and when it came about. He confirmed Kittle’s version but made sure to note the date of that conversation. It was Sept. 16, 2018, and the Niners hosted the Detroit Lions in a Week 2 matchup.
To Garoppolo’s recollection, he was just looking for a way to get the tight ends revved up before the game.
“I was just trying to get George, Celek, all those guys fired up,” Garoppolo said, laughing. “Started declaring it national tight end day, and now it’s a holiday. So, congrats for those guys.”
Celek caught a touchdown in that game as the Niners went on to win 30-27 and a holiday was born. Soon after, Kittle began calling every day national tight end day.
Citing the need for more attention to be paid to a position he — completely objectively, of course — believes is often overlooked, Kittle began pushing for a something a bit more real.
Last year, the NFL embraced the idea, and this Sunday tight ends all over the league will be miked up. The league has been pushing tight end content on its various social channels all week.
— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) October 22, 2020
Kittle, who wore a “Ross ‘Da Boss’ Dwelley” T-shirt in honor of his fellow Niners tight end in his Thursday media session, has declared the best way to celebrate is to “watch really good football, watch us score touchdowns and pay attention to some of the best athletes in the league.” He’s also leveraging his own endorsement opportunities, as a national fast-food chain he pitches even has a special discount set up surrounding the day.
One more possible celebration opportunity is unique to Kittle on Sunday. If he can amass 112 or more receiving yards, he would surpass Mike Ditka for the most receiving yards by a tight end in his first 50 games in NFL history.
“It’s fun,” Kittle said. “Tight ends, we’re kind of like a brotherhood. It’s a position where I want to see everyone succeed all the time. I want to see tight ends score touchdowns. I want to see them pancaking guys, breaking tackles, pass pro, I like seeing it all. So, a day that you can recognize all the great tight ends across the league is a great day, and I’m looking forward to our second annual national tight end day.”
As for Garoppolo, he expresses no regrets about accidentally starting a holiday for a position he doesn’t even play.
“I’m all right with it just being national tight end day,” Garoppolo said. “Those guys, they need some love too. They don’t get enough of it, in my opinion.”