49ers Super Bowl extra special for head coach’s nanny

Junior Anna Gustafson got a front-row seat to San Francisco’s magical season as a nanny for the Shanahan family.

Dale+Gustafson+passed+down+the+49er%27s+spirit+to+daughter+Anna+Gustafson.

Courtesy of Anna Gustafson

Dale Gustafson passed down the 49er’s spirit to daughter Anna Gustafson.

Austin Green and Andi Basista

(This story was originally published in print on Jan. 23, 2020).

At first glance, junior intercultural studies major Anna Gustafson seems like a typical Biola student. She owns a Disneyland pass and met her best friends on her dorm floor. She is passionate about Mock Rock, having led the Men of Honor team to a first-place finish in the contest last year. Like many other Biolans, she nannies for a family when she goes home on break. 

But Anna holds a unique connection to her favorite NFL team. The family she nannies for? That would be the Shanahans. As in 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Make no mistake—the Bay Area native has long been a die-hard fan of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, who will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2. In fact, her passion for the Niners was what helped her land the job in the first place.

DIEHARD FAITHFUL

Alumnus Dale Gustafson still remembers the exact moment his daughter’s 49ers fandom became her own. It was a frigid January day in 2012 and the Gustafsons had just moved back to the Bay Area. The 49ers were playing the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs. The Saints had just staged a furious rally to take the lead, and then-Niners quarterback Alex Smith had only 40 seconds to lead his team down the field and give them a chance. 

“I think he’s gonna do it, Dad,” Dale remembers Anna telling him while they stood near their seats behind the 49ers’ end zone.

She was right. Smith connected with tight end Vernon Davis for the game-winning touchdown right in front of the Gustafsons’ seats. After that, Dale remembers, Anna was hooked.

“It became an addiction at that point,” he said.

The 49ers reached the Super Bowl the following season but faded in the years after. Smith, Davis and the rest of that team’s core soon moved on. But Dale and Anna stayed faithful even as the Niners plunged back to the bottom of the NFL.

FATEFUL PHONE CALL

Team flags coated in red, black and gold line Anna’s Biola dorm room. Her bed is draped in a 49ers blanket, her keychain stamped with the team logo. Even as the Niners declined, the father-daughter duo got season tickets and attended as many games as they could. Then one day during her senior year of high school, Anna’s relationship with her beloved 49ers changed forever—because she let a call from an unfamiliar number go to voicemail. 

“I was looking for someone 25 [years old] or older… but your voicemail [greeting] says ‘Go Niners’ so I think this is going to work out just fine,” Mandy Shanahan’s message said. “Can you babysit for us this weekend?”

Mandy’s husband Kyle had just been hired as the next head coach of the 49ers. He was returning to the Bay Area where he had spent some of his childhood while his father Mike was an assistant during the old Niners dynasty.

Since that fateful voicemail, Anna has become a trusted caregiver for Kyle and Mandy’s three children—Stella, Carter and Lexi. She picks them up from birthday parties, helps them with their homework and sometimes even sleeps over at the family’s mansion. Anna especially relishes getting the chance to talk more about Jesus with the kids, who attend a Christian school. She is on a first-name basis with most of the extended Shanahan clan, including Mike, a hall-of-fame NFL coach.

SHANAHAN SHENANIGANS

Kyle, meanwhile, has developed a reputation as a fiery, respected leader and genius tactician in a sport where both culture and strategy are vital to a team’s success. A quick web search of his name will yield stories about how he helped rebuild the team’s identity behind the scenes and how his play-calling has made the Niners’ offense unstoppable in the playoffs.

Anna, however, sees another side of her boss that few get to witness.

“He is the chillest dad I have ever met,” Anna said. 

It is not uncommon for her to arrive at the Shanahan home to find Kyle playing with all three kids or shooting hoops with Carter outside. Anna has also become close with Mandy and greatly admires the way she handles her responsibilities both as the 49er’s head coach’s wife and at home caring for the children while Kyle is away.

Kyle was gone more often than not while Anna spent time with the Shanahans during winter break—he was spending hours at the team facility preparing for the NFL playoffs. One morning while she was staying over, though, Anna awoke to a noise. She walked downstairs to find Kyle making chicken nuggets for breakfast at 5 a.m. Naturally.

“Look! They’re gluten-free!” the head coach bragged. 

PLAYOFF DEDICATION

In the closing moments of the victory that would send the 49ers back to the Super Bowl, the Shanahan family gathered to take the field for the trophy presentation. Mike presented Kyle with the NFC Championship trophy and the Levi’s Stadium crowd let out a huge cheer as father and son embraced. Next to Kyle, Mandy, Stella and Carter beamed with pride while Lexi eagerly grabbed at the falling red and gold confetti.

Their nanny was beaming, too. From their usual stadium seats behind the end zone, Anna and Dale celebrated not just their lifelong favorite team, but the family at its forefront with whom they now share a special bond.

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