Hometown fans are pumped about Jimmy Garoppolo's Super Bowl appearance
While the Bears won't be playing in Super Bowl LIV next month, many in the Northwest suburbs will have a deep stake in the game's outcome when native son and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo takes the field in Miami.
The success of the Rolling Meadows High School grad -- whose football roots go back to the Cowboys youth program in his hometown Arlington Heights -- is never far from the thoughts of today's students and athletes, local school officials said.
Last week, Garoppolo's old yearbooks were pulled out for students at South Middle School in Arlington Heights. The school held a pep rally Friday and created a "Good Luck, Jimmy!" social media video ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers.
"It's just a cool thing," said Adam Harris, head of communications and storytelling for Arlington Heights Elementary District 25. "Someone who went to our schools is in the Super Bowl. It's a really rare, rare thing for the community to celebrate."
Lisa Da Rocha, assistant principal at Rolling Meadows High, said Garoppolo's budding NFL stardom is watched closely at the school.
"With all the things that he's accomplished in his short career, we're just super happy for him and proud of how he's handling himself," she said.
Tony Wolanski, an assistant football coach at Rolling Meadows High when Garoppolo played there, attested to the natural talent and character of the Super Bowl-bound quarterback.
"I think as a player, he was always one of the more talented Rolling Meadows High School ever had," Wolanski said. "But I think what separates him from a lot of others was his leadership skills."
Through his 28 seasons as a football coach, Wolanski said, Garoppolo was one of only three players he believed could make it to the NFL if he wanted.
And Jimmy did.
"He wanted to always get better and improve," Wolanski said.
Wolanski has since become friends with Garoppolo's dad and said he knows now where the young man's character came from.
"His family brought him up the right way," he said. "He's a very nice guy. He's grown up to be a very humble adult. He really does take care of people. That's the way his family is."
Wolanski, who now coaches girls softball at Rolling Meadows, said everyone at the school is a San Francisco 49ers fan.
Garoppolo's local fans made themselves felt Sunday at Rep's Place in Rolling Meadows, where his high school jersey hangs on the wall.
"We had a full house for the second game yesterday for sure," sports bar owner Mike Reppe said. "It was a very high-energy."
Both 49ers playoff games brought Rep's its biggest crowds of the season, and arrangements likely will be made to create even more space for the Super Bowl audience Feb. 2, he said.
"If the Bears can't be in it, this is better or the next best thing," Reppe said.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said he expects village officials will formally reach out to Garoppolo to see if he might be able to come to a village board meeting sometime after the Super Bowl and be formally recognized for his recent accomplishments.
On May 8, 2014 -- the day Garoppolo was drafted into the NFL -- the village honored him by declaring it Jimmy Garoppolo Day in Arlington Heights.
• Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.