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Al Netter’s football career has given him rewards he never dreamt of.

And it isn’t over yet.

After riding his Cardinal Newman football success to a record-setting four years at Northwestern University and then to NFL stints with the 49ers and the Tennessee Titans, Netter thought last year he might be finished with the sport.

He’d been cut by the Niners after the preseason games, and at age 26, hadn’t received any offers from other teams.

But then, thanks to good connections and timing, Netter got a call.

Two former coaches wanted him to come help coach football at the University of Michigan.

Those two were offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and head coach Jim Harbaugh, both of whom Netter played under in San Francisco.

Netter, who was raised in Rohnert Park and whose parents, Joe and Barbara, still live there, jumped on an airplane bound for the Ann Arbor football haven. Home of the Big House, the largest stadium in the country with more than 115,000 seats. Home of a storied football tradition, seat of 11 national championships.

Now a graduate assistant under Drevno, he is helping prepare the Wolverines’ offensive line for the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., on New Year’s Day against No. 19 Florida.

“Oh my gosh, I think about it all the time, the amount of things I’ve gotten to do because of football,” Netter said. “I’ve been in every major city in the U.S. through football. I’ve gotten to do a lot of fun things. It’s opened a lot of doors for me.”

Netter, an All-North Coast Section tackle at Newman in 2006, led the Cardinals to the Division 3 state title game that year, where they fell 27-20 in overtime to Oaks Christian of Westlake Village.

He looked at several schools, but ultimately went to Northwestern University, where he would graduate in four years with academic as well as Big Ten athletic honors.

After redshirting a year, Netter started at left tackle in every game for the next four seasons, a school-record 52 straight.

Netter’s eventual road to Michigan, as it turns out, started when he was in high school.

Harbaugh had already made contact with Netter when he was at Newman, when the coach had yet to win acclaim at Stanford.

“I remember him recruiting me back when I was a junior in high school when he was at the University of San Diego,” Netter said. “I had multiple conversations with him. So our relationship goes back 10 years.

“Then at Stanford he recruited me, then at the Niners. We always had a good relationship. He knows I have a passion for the game and I love what I do. I think he knows I’m a hard worker.”

But even more important than that relationship was the one he has built with Drevno, who was the 49ers offensive line coach during three of Netter’s five stints with the team.

After playing on Tennessee’s practice squad, Netter re-signed with the 49ers and played last year during the preseason (with Drevno then at USC) before being cut again.

“I felt like I was in really good shape and ready to go,” he said. “But as the months went by, I thought maybe this was it for me, maybe it was time to start moving on.”

Netter had thought about coaching at the college level, helping to develop young men into the hulking yet agile and quick-thinking offensive linemen relied upon in the trenches.

Netter called Drevno to discuss what it would take for him to get into college coaching. By that time, Harbaugh had left the Niners and Drevno was still assisting at USC.

“He said it sounds great, give me a call next week,” Netter said.

Drevno and Harbaugh have a long history of coaching together, having worked in tandem at four different stops over the years: USD, Stanford, the 49ers and now Michigan.

“It just so happened that in between that time, he got offered the offensive coordinator job at Michigan with coach Harbaugh,” Netter said. “It was a crazy turn of events. I called him, talked to him, talked to Coach Harbaugh and they both were excited. They said they’d both like to have me come coach.”

In addition to his coaching duties, Netter is in a master’s program, pursuing a degree in sports management.

“The hours are pretty insane,” he said. “There are a lot of late nights or early mornings, however you want to look at it. It’s an adjustment, but the amount you learn by spending all those hard hours, it’s amazing.”

Hard work was never something Netter was shy about, said one of his former coaches at Newman, Lynn Meister, who called Netter “an overachiever” who always has a plan.

“To achieve what he’s achieved shows he’s had great direction and wherewithal, mentally and physically, to make it happen,” said Meister, who still coaches at Newman. “Northwestern was a perfect fit for him because it’s an academic school primarily.”

Netter already had his degree before playing in his final year of athletic eligibility.

“Al has always been so focused,” Meister said. “He knew what he wanted and he was willing to do the work to get there.”

Netter credits Meister and family support for much of his success, including his 90-year-old grandmother, Irma Burnett, who passed away three weeks ago.

“She was a huge inspiration to me and a huge football fan,” he said.

Burnett was a 49ers season-ticket holder from 1981 “through the end of Candlestick,” Netter said. “She went to all my high school games, three or four of my college games and went to a ton of my Niners games.”

Burnett probably would have loved to have been in the stands for what may go down as the wackiest finish to any college football game this season, for which her grandson had a front-row seat — Michigan-Michigan State on Oct. 17.

With the Wolverines leading 23-21 with 10 seconds left, the Michigan punter bobbled a low snap, recovered and spun around but was swarmed by Spartans, and the ball popped right into the hands of MSU’s Jalen Watts-Jackson, who returned it for a 38-yard score and an unlikely win.

Michigan players and coaches were stunned on the sidelines.

“It’s the craziest game I’ve ever been in,” Netter said. “Everyone always looks to the last play, but we had so many opportunities to put the game away. It’s hard to even blame one guy or one play.”

Typically, Netter looks to the bright side of the at-the-time devastating play.

“But the good thing about that team, as heartbreaking a finish as it was, nobody put their head down. We got back at it and won the next four games in a row,” he said. “It happened. We can’t go back in time now. We have a game next week.”

Netter’s next game will be an important one. While at Northwestern, he played in bowl games every year, losing all four.

He’s hoping that come Jan. 1 the Wolverines will put a win in that column for him, starting off his coaching career on the right foot.

“The game is something I’m so passionate about, especially the offensive line position,” he said. “I have so much pride in it. The fact that you get to work with young men and develop them, work with them both on and off field, I felt (coaching) would be a good fit for my personality. I think I can make a good career out of it.”

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.