1-on-1 with Arik Armstead, the Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for the San Francisco 49ers

Jan 6, 2023, 7:00 AM

| Updated: 8:10 am
Arik Armstead #91 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to a game against the Las Vegas Raiders...

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 01: Arik Armstead #91 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

One of the premier members of the Red & Gold’s defense and community, defensive lineman Arik Armstead was nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award for a third consecutive time this past December.

The Sacramento native has been a regular fixture in promoting community outreach in Northern California. Through the Arik Armstead Foundation, the player tackles the challenge of improving literacy amongst youth, visiting schools to read to various classrooms across the Bay.

Arik Armstead and the San Francisco 49ers also visited San Quentin State prison recently, using his “Storytime with Arik” program to help promote learning and reading among convicts.

According to the Literacy Project, 45 million Americans are functionally illiterate and cannot read above a fifth-grade level. Additionally, 85% of juvenile offenders have problems reading, as three out of five people in American prisons can’t read.

Thanks to Arik’s play on the field, he’s able to help so many others off of it.

Below you will find Sactown Sports’ interview with the Elk Grove high school alum, featuring his work around NorCal, and his love for the city of Sacramento.

This interview with Arik Armstead was conducted prior to Week 17 of the 2022 NFL regular season.

The Humanitarian

Question: What does it mean to you to wear that badge every single day on the field and to represent it for this league and for your organization?

Arik: I definitely take pride in it. Especially, we’re a team that a lot of guys do a lot in the community and give back. So to represent, our team, our organization, it’s a great feeling and I take that responsibility with great pride.

Q: What about Storytime with Arik, how did that start for you and why is that so important to you?

A: That started when I learned that the kids aren’t reading at grade level by fifth grade, the likelihood of them being successful in life and going onto graduate high school, [acquire] jobs, the percentages drop a lot. So literacy is very important for especially elementary school students who are starting off school, and it kind of sets the foundation for their future. So that’s why I started this storytime program. To you know, encourage kids to read and have fun reading.

Q: What was that experience like for you finding out that you were nominated while on one of those story-times?

A: It was a great experience. They always do a great job surprising me and I was definitely surprised. And you know, my family was there as well. But being told by the kids was definitely a great experience.

Q: What was it like visiting a prison? What influences you to talk to convicts about reading and education?

A: That was something that was an experience to me. I’ve never been to a prison before. During the holidays it’s very important. You know, there’s a lot of hard times on inmates as well and I think a lot of people forget about them. And so, I wanted to go there and just spend some time with them and support them through a tough time [of] being incarcerated and being away from their families.

Q: Since you’re from Sacramento, what has it been like to be so close to home and not only help the Bay Area but also back home?

A: It’s been great. You know, being drafted by the Niners and being close to home for eight years. It’s been great. And everything that I want to do off the field is even better because of so many Niner fans in Sacramento and I’m a NorCal kid, so it’s great.

Q: What is it about Sacramento? Do you feel like it’s a different vibe right now compared to past years?

A: Sacramento is definitely changing and evolving. It’s been good to see you know, being there my whole life. I’ve seen a lot of changes, a lot of development in the city as well and it’s been great. I think the city is headed in the right direction.

The Player

Question: You’re coming back from foot and ankle injuries. How are you feeling and what has it been like for you? You’ve been productive for most of your career. You’ve been on the field for a lot of it. Was it hard to be out for an extended period of time?

Arik: Yeah, for sure. I hadn’t missed a game in four years. So not playing was tough, but I’m glad to be back at an important time.

Q: And then [49ers DE Nick Bosa] called you probably the most impactful player on the defensive line because you take up so much space, you’re able to move offensive lineman over and open holes for him. What does that speak to your play, to hear that from arguably the defensive player of the year?

A: Definitely the defensive player year this year [smiling]. But I love playing with the guys and we have a great group, we’re close and we play for one another. So we don’t have any selfish guys. So of course, you know, something like that will come from a teammate of mine, giving somebody else credit, which we all do for each other. So that’s a great compliment.

Q: Kyle was talking earlier this week about how these last two games and sometimes it’s easy to slack off, you already have the division wrapped up, but it’s an opportunity to get better. What is it about this team and the mindset to keep pushing forward and keep trying to strive to be the best every single week?

A: You can’t let your opportunities pass you, you know. We made it to the playoffs but beyond that you only guaranteed one playoff game so we’ve done a lot of work thus far and we can’t slip now. We got to keep going, keep getting better. We want to be hitting our stride head into the playoffs. So you know it’s not time to slack. We know what it’s like to make a run deep in the playoffs and you got to be hitting your stride and so that’s what we’re trying to do.

Click here to read more on Arik Armstead’s 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination.


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1-on-1 with Arik Armstead, the Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for the San Francisco 49ers