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On a Friday in 1958, while a teenage George Seifert expected to begin playing football at Cal Poly on Monday, he received a phone call from Utah.

An incoming freshman had backed out, a coach told him, and they had a free scholarship.

Would he want it?

Seifert's mom took him straight to a Greyhound bus stop and set in motion a career that would rank among the most successful in football history — a career that might never have begun without the suggestion of a friend he'd meet in Salt Lake.

"There's so many things that we do from day to day that have a profound effect on our lives," said Seifert, who will be inducted into Utah's Crimson Club Hall of Fame on Friday night along with Jamal Anderson, Alex Jensen, Melonie Kent, Angie Leonard and the 1998 men's basketball team that finished national runner-up.

Seifert's first impression of the Beehive State was "kind of disturbing, actually." Born and raised in San Francisco, he remembers that as the sun came up, the Greyhound bus driver told him, "You're now in Utah."

He looked around and saw the bleakest land on earth.

"We were in the Salt Flats," Seifert laughed. "I thought, 'What did I get myself into?'"

He was heartened as they entered more habitable terrain, and even more so when halfback Stuart Vaughn picked him up in a red convertible. Before long, he was playing catch with star quarterback and later longtime ABC football analyst Lee Grosscup, with the scenic Wasatch Mountains as their backdrop.

Seifert went on to become an offensive guard and linebacker, and "didn't have much of a playing career," in his estimation. After graduating, he roomed with former teammate Lynn Stiles while pursuing a master's in zoology.

He and Stiles became close during their time at the U. They double-dated with their wives-to-be and honeymooned together in Yellowstone, where Stiles fondly remembers waving his flashlight to frighten an overcurious bear and hiking six miles to overnight at a lake where "we froze our tails off."

Stiles had been a graduate assistant for head coach Ray Nagel in 1963, and after he was promoted to a full-time job in 1964, he encouraged the cerebral Seifert to talk to Nagel about the graduate vacancy.

The man who would one day own a literal handful of Super Bowl rings was tasked with thinking up creative ways to work out injured players, and proved capable enough that coaches entrusted him with helping Pres Summerhays instruct Utah's freshman team.

"Once I got involved, I fell in love with the teaching aspect," said Seifert, who particularly admired the attention to detail shown by Nagel assistant Bob Watson while the varsity squad went 8-2 and beat West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl.

Seifert in 1964 was "about like he is now" said then-Utah wingback and current defensive coordinator John Pease. Serious. All-business. Solid.

In 1965, he helped restart the football program at Westminster College, head coach for a team with no uniforms and no schedule. The next year, he and Stiles followed Nagel to Iowa, before Seifert landed a job as Oregon's defensive backs coach in 1967.

The old roommates would reunite 20 years later on the 49ers, for whom Seifert had ushered as a young adult and later became a title-winning defensive backs coach, coordinator and head coach.

"Everybody talks about the offense," said Stiles, an offensive assistant. "... but the 49ers defense was a top-10, top-five defense all that time, too. His contribution probably paralleled what Bill Walsh was doing over on offense."

Seifert was an ego-less boss, Stiles said. After becoming head coach in 1989, he didn't try to fix what wasn't broke, and he encouraged the type of player leadership that he'd witnessed during Utah's 1964 Liberty Bowl season.

Before the 49ers walloped the Broncos 55-10 in the 1990 Super Bowl, Stiles remembers that safety Ronnie Lott asked Seifert if he could address the team before it took the field.

Lott stood up and repeated three times, each time saying it faster and more emphatically:

"One heartbeat.

"One heartbeat.

"One heartbeat!"

Utah's Kyle Whittingham — whom Seifert had recruited while head coach at Cornell — would one day recite the same words in his pre-game gather-arounds.

In 1993, after Stiles had been hired as vice president of player personnel for the Chiefs, he and his onetime honeymoon companion worked out a deal for Joe Montana, finally ending the yearslong debate about Montana and Steve Young.

Seifert went 98-30 as San Francisco's head coach, claiming another title in 1994 and never failing to win 10 games.

During three less triumphant years at Carolina, he gave a first-ever coaching job to former Utah quarterback and current Chargers head coach Mike McCoy, and he drafted Utah wideout Steve Smith. He retired in 2001.

Seifert now lives in Nevada and owns another home north of San Francisco, in Bodega Bay. He's been "overwhelmed" by Utah's success under Whittingham, he said. Stiles remembers wondering to each other when both were cub coaches in 1964, "Do you think we could compete in the Pac-8?"

A lifelong fisherman and hunter, Seifert adores Nevada's Ruby Mountains, and after being honored at halftime Saturday night, will drive to Challis, Idaho, on Sunday morning to hunt deer.

"He likes to be on his own," said Pease, joking: "I'm sure he would rather be fishing than be here for this weekend."

Seifert fulfilled a hunter's dream last year when he shot a Rocky Mountain bighorn in south-central British Columbia to complete the famed "Grand Slam," which also calls for a Dall's sheep, a Stone's sheep and a desert bighorn.

Grand Slam, Super Bowl, whatever, "he's always been extremely focused on whatever he set out to do," Stiles said, and nothing has stopped him yet.

It just so happens that what he first set out for was the University of Utah.

Twitter: @matthew_piper —

No. 23 California at No. 5 Utah

P Saturday, 8 p.m.


Crimson Club Hall of Fame • After being inducted Friday night, the 2015 Crimson Club Hall of Fame class will be introduced at halftime during Saturday's game. The class includes: Jamal Anderson (football), Alex Jensen (basketball), Melonie Kent (softball), Angie Leonard (gymnastics), George Seifert (football), Kay and Zeke Dumke Jr. (donors) and the 1998 NCAA runner-up men's basketball team.