Preparing for one of the biggest spectacles in sports in one of the most notorious cities in the nation, Nate Breske hasn't had time to worry about the accompanying glitz and glamor.
The many distractions can wait until after today's Super Bowl.
Breske, a Webster native and a Northern State University graduate, is an assistant athletic trainer for the San Francisco 49ers. His aim since arriving in New Orleans a week ago has been to have players as healthy as possible for today's game.
"It's a business trip, and we're looking forward to taking care of business (today)," Breske said.
The Niners are trying to keep the week's schedule as normal as possible, Breske said. Tuesday was media day, but since, the team has kept a fairly routine schedule with meetings in the morning and practices in the afternoon on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, he said.
One of Breske's main tasks is taping up players before practices and games. But there are more duties than simply that. And at all hours of the day.
"We're always on call. It's a 24/7 job," said Breske, 35.
Trainers also assess injuries. If a player is hurt during a game, the trainers evaluate the problem and decide whether it's safe for the player to go back into the game. Maybe a player will need more tape or a new brace, Breske said. If needed, trainers call doctors. The most important thing is to do what's best for the player, he said.
"If they're not safe to go back on the field, they're not going back on no matter who they are," Breske said.
He hopes that after the game ends today, there will be reason to celebrate and time to have some fun in New Orleans with others affiliated with the team and some family members who will be at the game.
His father, Leon, and brothers, Matt and Jake are in town. Leon Breske led Webster High School to two state football championships and coached for more than 30 years, mostly in northeast South Dakota. Matt, 33, is a chiropractor in The Netherlands, and Jake, 26, helps coach the Webster football team.
He said he's had time to visit with and go out to dinner with his family. But he's left exploring New Orleans to them this week.
His wife, Tia, and three children are also in town for the game and have appreciated that work has had to be a top priority for Dad this week.
"They've been part of this for the whole year, so they understand," Breske said.
"This is the big show; there's nothing bigger than this, so I'm not about to get off track," he said, referring to all of the hoopla that surrounds the Super Bowl.
Breske was able to procure tickets for his family through the 49ers.
"The Breske boys will be there," Leon Breske said.
Before he left for New Orleans Wednesday, Leon Breske said he had no idea what to expect from New Orleans, a city he's never visited. He said it will be a new experience — like bringing somebody from the Bayou to a South Dakota farm or his hometown of Grenville, population 50 or so.
He said he doesn't care about the pregame and halftime shows, only the game. And he's not sure where he'll be sitting in the Superdome.
"I'm just getting in the place. That's all I know," Leon Breske said.
All three of his sons played college football — Nate as a quarterback at NSU, Jacob as a quarterback at the University of South Dakota and Matt as a linebacker at Augustana College. But while football is an important part of the Breske family, Leon Breske said he never imagined going to the Super Bowl or having one of his sons affiliated with a team in the big game.
Nate Breske, though, did dream of the Super Bowl when he was a kid. He said he recently got an email from a buddy who remembered a young Breske talking about playing in the game. Breske remembers that, too. He said that once he figured out he wasn't a good enough player to make an NFL team, he had to change his plan and started studying athletic training.
Breske isn't the only member of the Niners staff who has connections to South Dakota. Mark Uyeyama is the team's head strength and conditioning coach, and he played for and graduated from NSU.
General Manager Trent Baalke was an assistant coach at South Dakota State University from 1990 through 1995. And assistant coach/special teams coordinator Brad Seely played for the Jackrabbits and started his coaching career at SDSU.
The former South Dakotans frequently talk about what's going on back home and the people they know in the state, Breske said.
He said that while he and Uyeyama both attended NSU, they wound up working for the 49ers independently of each other. Uyeyama was hired in early 2008, Nate Breske that summer.
Nate Breske was a physical therapist in Watertown at the time the 49ers unexpectedly called him. The call was based on a recommendation from the New England Patriots with whom he had interned for a summer.
He said he still gets back to Webster a couple of times a year, once during the summer and once at the end of the football season. The 49ers Super Bowl run, though, has cut into those plans this year.
Nate Breske said he thinks folks from Aberdeen to Webster to Watertown have taken an interest in San Francisco because of the team's South Dakota ties.
"I think we have a pretty good following back there now," he said.
Leon Breske, a Chicago Bears fan, said Webster is supportive of the 49ers because they know Nate Breske works for the team. What he's less sure of is whether the Day County town is planning any sort of Super Bowl bash so community members can watch the game together.
Even though his son doesn't play, Leon Breske still gets nervous watching San Francisco games.
"You've got to be nervous because in football there's colors, and then there's blood," he said.
Leon Breske went to the 49ers season-opening game against the Packers in Green Bay. San Francisco won, 30-22. A couple of years ago, he made the same trip to see the Niners at Lambeau Field and had on-field access, he said.
Through their playoff run, the 49ers have proven that they belong in the Super Bowl by coming back from sizable deficits, Leon Breske said. But it'd be best not to dig such a deep hole today, he said.
Last year, San Francisco lost in the National Football Conference championship game. This year, it advanced beyond that round of the playoffs and to the final game of the season by defeating the Atlanta Falcons, setting up a unique, brother-vs.-brother title tilt. The Niners are coached by Jim Harbaugh, the Ravens by John Harbaugh.
The battle of the siblings has garnered plenty of attention, but as with all of the other big game hustle and bustle, Nate Breske said he is trying to set it aside and do his job in the dream-come-true scenario.
"It's a special occasion that I am really happy to be part of," he said.
Other Dakota connections:
Trent Baalke, 49ers general manager. Named general manager in 2011, Baalke was a graduate assistant and defensive line coach at North Dakota State University in 1989. From 1990 though 1995, he was the defensive line and strength and conditioning coach at South Dakota State University. He was the athletic director at Shanley High School in Fargo, N.D., in 1997-98. He joined the 49ers in 2005 and worked his way up the ranks. He's also worked for the Washington Redskins and New York Jets.
Jerry Rosburg, Ravens assistant coach/special teams coordinator
Rosburg is a Fairmont, Minn., native and a graduate of North Dakota State University, where he was an All-America linebacker for the Bison. He was an assistant coach at Shanley High School in 1979-80. He's been with the Ravens since 2008. He's also coached for the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons.
Brad Seely, 49ers assistant coach/special teams coordinator
A graduate of South Dakota State University, Seely has been with the Niners since January 2011. He's coached in the NFL for more than two decades, including with the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. A native of Vinton, Iowa, he was an all-conference offensive guard for the Jackrabbits. In 1978, he began his coaching career as an assistant at SDSU.
Mark Uyeyama, 49ers head strength and conditioning coach
A Northern State University graduate who played for the Wolves in the late 1990s, Uyeyama is in his fifth season with the 49ers. From 2008 through 2010, he was the assistant strength and conditioning coach. He is responsible for overseeing the team’s strength and conditioning program, which includes strength, power development, speed, recovery and regeneration, as well as the nutritional program for the players.
The Nate Breske File
Education: Webster High School graduate, undergraduate degree from Northern State University, doctorate in athletic training from University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
Job: Assistant athletic trainer with the San Francisco 49ers.
Family: Wife, Tia. Children, Jherek, 5; Keon, 3; Emsley, 1. Parents, Leon and Cathy, live in Webster.
Lives in: San Jose, Calif.