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49ers QB shares definition of success at ‘Champions for Youth’ breakfast


Photo By: Bruce Barton/Town Crier
“Champions for Youth” organizer Gay Krause, from left, 49ers quarterback Scott Tolzien and Youth Champion of the Year honoree Roy Lave contribute to an inspiring Challenge Team event.

For San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Scott Tolzien, “paying the rent” means something altogether different from a writing a check for the landlord. Tolzien, speaking at the annual “Champions for Youth” breakfast May 8, said it was his life’s motto.

Quoting his high school basketball coach, Tolzien said, “Success isn’t owned, it’s rented – and the rent is due every day.”

The nonprofit Mountain View-Los Altos Challenge Team sponsored last week’s 26th annual event, which celebrated community helping youth. Chief organizer – and veteran educator – Gay Krause leads a team of local law enforcement, school district personnel and volunteers who work on steering at-risk youth in a positive direction.

In addition to keynote speaker Tolzien, the breakfast, held at Michaels at Shoreline in Mountain View, honored Los Altos resident Roy Lave as Youth Champion of the Year and Los Altos High School student Ricky Juarez as Student Champion.

Tolzien related his own personal story of continually having to prove himself. After sitting on the bench for three years at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Tolzien, as a starter, led his Badgers to the 2011 Rose Bowl. But when the National Football League draft arrived, he went undrafted.

“After college, once again, nobody wanted me,” he quipped.

He signed with the San Diego Chargers and was cut from the team before the 49ers picked him up. Alex Smith’s departure from the 49ers now has Tolzien at No. 2 behind Colin Kaepernick as Tolzien awaits a chance to prove himself again.

Although limited to the practice squad, Tolzien said his past two years with the Niners have been “the best success of my life.”

Then he questioned the definition of success: “Is it being the starting quarterback? Going to the prom with the prom queen? Making six figures?”

He offered three qualities of success: attitude, work ethic and humility.

Growing up with parents who were a positive influence, Tolzien cited 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh as a shining example of a healthy attitude. Even when he first joined what was a losing team, Harbaugh would shout, “Who’s got it better than us? Nobody!”

“Who’s got it better than us?” Tolzien joked at the time. “I can think of 31 other teams.”

But Harbaugh’s cheer, Tolzien related, went deeper than that. It was about taking ownership, he said, of life.

Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Tolzien said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Hard work is key, Tolzien said.

“You got to put in the work – it’s an everyday grind,” he said.

Retaining humility, he added, is equally important. In addition to being true to the person “in the mirror,” the 25-year-old athlete encouraged maintaining one’s perspective and doing good for genuine reasons.

“If (doing good) is for the notoriety of what you’re doing, it defeats the purpose,” Tolzien said.

The Challenge Team recognized Lave, a former Los Altos mayor and longtime leader of the Los Altos Community Foundation, for his active participation in numerous youth programs, including Youth Philanthropy, Family Philanthropy and MVLA Community Scholars.

Lave diverted the praise aimed at him. Drawing an analogy – “If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know someone put it there” – Lave credited his wife, Penny, also a former Los Altos mayor, as the “No. 1 turtle lifter.”

Juarez, a sophomore at Los Altos High, was recognized not only for rejecting the lure of youth gangs prevalent in his neighborhood, but also for encouraging his peers to seek more positive and productive outlets for their energies. Known for his commitment and energetic spirit, the Challenge Team applauded Juarez for his community involvement with the city of Mountain View Parks and Recreation Department’s Leaders in Training program and the city’s Youth Advisory Committee.

For more information, visit challengeteam.org.

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