NEW ORLEANS — When Jed York attended his first football game at age 3, he had already developed an eye for watching the way his uncle ran the San Francisco 49ers during their glory days.
Nearly three decades later, the Niners are York's team — and he is trying to build something just as special as the dynasty Eddie DeBartolo Jr. had when the franchise won five Super Bowls in as many tries.
That first game was in Cleveland, "sitting on Jennifer Montana's lap," York recalled Thursday. "I traveled with my family a lot to go see games. When you're a little kid and you watch how Eddie was with the players, it's just, 'that's how you do it.'<WC><TH>"<WC1>
York has some catching up to do.
He can count the good seasons by his San Francisco franchise on one hand. That's why he keeps the comparisons between him and his uncle — "he was the best ever" — to a minimum.
"We're short, we're unathletic ... grew up in Youngstown, Ohio," York said of him and DeBartolo, who is up for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "I think we both dress very well."
A casually dressed York hardly looked the part of an NFL executive and owner, wearing slightly baggy jeans, a polo shirt and sneakers for<WC> the<WC1> Super Bowl.
The shoes were designer, but still.
In a matter of months, the San Francisco 49ers CEO has become a first-time father, watched a new billion-dollar stadium take shape outside his office at team headquarters in Silicon Valley and seen his San Francisco franchise return to the Super Bowl — 18 years after the last championship. Not bad for a guy going on 32 (his birthday is in March).
The hands-on DeBartolo was a locker room fixture when he owned the team from 1977-98 and won five Super Bowls. He took care of his players — still does — even the injured ones, and was affectionately known as "Mr. D."
York does it his way, staying behind the scenes and trusting general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh to make the right decisions.
After much change from top to bottom, York takes pride in the progress but won't be happy until his Niners are Super Bowl regulars again.
"I think we're proud. We've put in the work to get here but there's a long way for us still to go," York said. "I don't know that there's a lot of reflection right now."
Next up: bringing home another Lombardi Trophy to the sports-crazed Bay Area, where the San Francisco Giants captured their second World Series title in three years last fall. The 49ers are a remarkable 5-0 in Super Bowls heading into Sunday's NFL championship game against Baltimore.
They are on their "Quest for Six" — the slogan for this special run — thanks to York's aggressive leadership. He promoted Trent Baalke to general manager, and together they aggressively pursued Harbaugh before ultimately hiring him away from Stanford in January 2011.