'He'll be back': Rolling Meadows bar's patrons see Garoppolo's Super Bowl hopes dashed
For Mike Reppe, it was a bittersweet end to an exhilarating ride.
Reppe's bar, Rep's Place on Kirchoff Road in Rolling Meadows, has been the center of the Jimmy Garoppolo universe while the Rolling Meadows High School star carried the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.
But the Super Bowl dream came to a crashing halt when the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes worked his customary comeback magic for a 31-20 win.
After the game clock ran out, Reppe took the microphone and addressed the crowd.
"Next year," he said. "Next year Jimmy will be back better than ever."
Even before the game TV trucks were in the parking lot and the news cameras were stationed by the bar, ready to capture the patrons wearing 49ers jerseys with Garoppolo's name and number erupting in cheers for their local hero.
They were rewarded almost immediately by the sea of raised arms and the roar of the crowd when the 49ers scored their first points.
But those cheers turned to groans of frustration in the second half as the 49ers' lead dissolved.
"They had the opportunity to blow this game open, and they failed," Mike Madio of Buffalo Grove said after the game.
Madio said Garoppolo "played good, but he's played better during the course of the year for sure."
Reppe reflected on the impact of the playoff run on his establishment.
"There has been tons of buzz," he said. "The community has come together, and everybody rallied around Jimmy, and they had a great year. They'll be back."
Hanging on the walls were Garoppolo jerseys, including his high school football jersey. On another wall hung a Rolling Meadows banner.
"Anybody that comes in wearing anything Garoppolo will get a certain percentage off of their check today," Jenny Martinez, the bar's general manager, said during the first half.
From the day the bar opened, Martinez said, "he has kind of been the inspiration for us."
"It's pretty special to have somebody that's a hometown boy representing us here in Rolling Meadows," she said.
The crowd included fans who had a personal connection to Garoppolo.
Rolling Meadows resident Carla Montgomery remembered how Garoppolo used to greet her youngest daughter, a student at the high school.
"Jimmy used to refer to her as his little Hawkeye, because she always wore her (Iowa University) Hawkeye fleece to school."
Montgomery said it has been thrilling to see his success.
"Even when he was drafted, we all got excited about it," she said.
Not all of the bar patrons were backing the 49ers. Sipping on a Bloody Mary at the bar was Brandon Fricke, who lives in Rolling Meadows but grew up in Topeka, Kansas.
Fricke, who was sporting Chiefs gear, said he felt "a little outnumbered. I was warned that this might be a 49ers bar, but I did not think it was going to be 1-to-100."
But his team won in the end. "We've come from behind every single game this postseason. Nobody can count him out."
Linda Schendel, who works for the Rolling Meadows Police Department, said she remembers Garoppolo as a shy boy when he was in high school. She said that even today, when Garoppolo comes home, he still plays football in the backyard with his neighborhood friends in Arlington Heights.
Despite the outcome, Montgomery was optimistic.
"This isn't the last you're going to see of Jimmy Garoppolo," she said. "You're going to see him win the Super Bowl. You're going to see him in the Hall of Fame."