For the 49ers, football is business, so its front office functions as any other corporation would. Many individuals work off the field to ensure that both the team and Levi's® Stadium run like well-oiled machines. Among these front office employees are several women whose careers with the team span decades. Over the next few months, 49ers.com will share their stories, which explore memorable moments in 49ers history from the perspectives of the women who have seen it all.
Carri Kimball quickly learned about the National Football League's fast-paced work environment. Just five days after starting as the 49ers receptionist, Carri was operating the phones at team headquarters during the 1984 NFL Draft. Her duty was transferring call after call from 49ers representatives at the draft meeting in New York to scouting staff in the office to inquiries coming from the other 27 teams and back again. Her contribution resulted in the selection of several future 49ers stars including Guy McIntyre, Michael Carter, Todd Shell, John Frank and Jeff Fuller.
But that was just the start of the non-stop action that Carri experienced her first season with the 49ers. The 49ers went on to win Super Bowl XIX that year at Stanford Stadium, just down the road from the team's practice facility in Redwood City. It was the first of six Super Bowls Carri would be a part of with the 49ers.
Efficiency was key to the 49ers on-field success. In 1984, the front office staff consisted of just over 20 people, including the coaching staff. Therefore, each person played a pivotal role in achieving that success.
"Our common goal is always to get to that Super Bowl, and everybody works so hard because we all understand that we are all part of the team," Carri explained. "They don't have to be on the field to be part of the team."
That mentality came from the top down. Head coach Bill Walsh believed in hiring the best people at all levels and ensuring a high level of respect for everyone in the franchise. Team owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. showed his appreciation for the staff with, among other things, generous Christmas parties (that included childcare) and bringing the entire staff to each Super Bowl in which the 49ers participated, Carri recalls.
While the 49ers ultimate goal has never changed, the team's surroundings did. In 1988, the 49ers moved its training site and business operations from a small building in suburban Redwood City to a brand-new state-of-the-art facility (and current team headquarters) in an industrial area of Santa Clara. Though it was an adjustment, the change allowed for growth. Carri moved from Receptionist into the role of Office Manager, then to the Executive Administrative Assistant of Scot McCloughan during his time as General Manager. When (current CEO) Jed York transitioned to Team President in 2008, Carri became his assistant.
Under Jed's tenure, Levi's® Stadium came to fruition. Staff members watched as it was designed, constructed and opened, becoming the largest 49ers endeavor in both size and scope. It was a huge transformation for everybody in the front office, and Carri was right there for it all.
"You could literally throw a rock from our window at 4949 and hit the stadium," Carri said. "Having this stadium come to fruition, Jed's vision come alive, and every day get to see the stadium go from dirt to pillars to a huge stadium."
While it was sad to leave Candlestick, the 49ers home field for 42 years, the new stadium started a new chapter for the franchise, and a new role for Carri. Today, Carri has found her niche as the Alumni Relations Assistant.
"I've loved being able to go to different departments," she said. "It's been great, and my passion is definitely alumni relations." Part of what makes Carri exemplary at her job has been getting to know players, coaches and staff through the decades. "The relationships that I have made over 37 years, I never forget anybody, they will always touch my heart no matter where I'm at, whether now or in the future. And I love staying in touch with people."
Keeping in touch is another useful skill Carri has utilized throughout her career. She ensures that the alumni network of over 1,100 people stays up-to-date with news and communications from the team and from the league. Most importantly, she keeps alumni connected to the 49ers.
Carri now works with Director of Alumni Relations Guy McIntyre and Vice President & Senior Advisor to the General Manager Keena Turner (both former players themselves) to organize alumni-focused initiatives. Among these are regular events, like Alumni Weekend and 49ers Hall of Fame Inductions. She also handles special events like 87 Day, which honors the memory of 49ers Hall of Fame receiver Dwight Clark in support of his diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative disease that ultimately took Clark's life. For Carri, that event in particular was a bittersweet experience.
"87 Day was definitely one of my hardest ones because I had to smile the entire time when all I wanted to do was cry," she said. "And it was because we were dealing with this wonderful guy and just having his family there in all of that and seeing his children. That was the toughest one, but one of the most memorable ones."
It was an emotional day for all of the Faithful, and particularly for those like Carri who knew Dwight on and off the football field.
There have been brighter moments for Carri in her alumni event orchestrations. One such occurrence is Alumni Weekend.
"I love doing that event because I feel like I'm putting a bunch of smiles on a lot of faces and they just enjoy it."
Similarly, Carri assists with all aspects of 49ers Hall of Fame Inductions, from monitoring the creation and arrival of the inductee's statue to planning the dinner with the inductees family and friends. On home game days, Carri has the pleasure of escorting the honorary captains around the stadium. The most memorable for her was in 2019 when Ken Casanega and Jesse Freitas, the last surviving members of the first 49ers team in 1946, shared the role.
"It just touched my heart. They were wonderful men," she said. And the relationship built that day continued. Earlier this year, Carri helped Casanega celebrate his 100th birthday, complete with 49ers gear emblazoned with the NFL 100 logo, which delighted the centenarian.
Even with just one employer, Carri has benefitted from each of her varying roles with the 49ers. Through her experience and relationships built, she ensures to pass down the advice to her interns that has served as a significant reminder for her throughout her tenure in San Francisco.
"You have an important role, so do it well. Do not get too comfortable, keep growing because there are 32 teams in this league, and you are part of one of them. It's very tough, it's hard to get in, but once you get in, enjoy it, but always keep growing."
Written By: Beth Atlas, Manager & Curator, 49ers Museum
Contributor: Joe Hession, 49ers Museum Historian
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