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Lake Minnetonka Living, January/February 2008

Football + Family = Fahnhorsts

For only Plymouth clan, football is a family affair

By Kelly Westhoff

For many Minnesotans, the Super Bowl is a time to gather with friends, knock back some beers, munch on a mess of appetizer trays and hoot over clever commercials. The actual game is too often buried by its outlandish accompaniments. But for one Lake Minnetonka area family, football is about more than glittery half time shows and dicey ads. It’s about leadership, hard work and tradition. Meet the Fahnhorsts: Jim, Kim, Jaime, Grant and Logan. Football, it seems, runs in their veins.

Jim—the patriarch—spent seven years with the San Francisco 49ers. He joined the team in 1984 and retired from the game in 1990. While with the 49ers, he played linebacker and wore number 55 on the field. He participated in three Super Bowl wins: 1984, 1988 and 1989.  

Jim joined the team as a free agent and was attracted to the 49ers because his older brother, Keith Fahnhorst, also played for the team. Yet brotherly love wasn’t the only thing pulling Jim to San Francisco. He got to play with the 49ers at an exciting time. Not only did the team win three titles in a short time, it was also comprised of some football greats like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott.

Before signing a contract with the 49ers, Jim played for the Gophers. A St. Cloud boy, he was drafted by the Vikings and was excited about the chance to play under Bud Grant. Yet he wasn’t satisfied with the offered plan, and instead joined the USFL, the United States Football League, a now defunct league that played during the spring and summer months. “I do regret not playing for Bud Grant,” Jim said. “Joining the USFL was a risk. I didn’t fully understand what a risk it was until I really got into it.”

The USFL was risky because the league was a new idea. Nobody knew how much respect its players would find. Plus, explained Jim, because the league played in the spring and summer, it was hard to extricate himself from the organization and move on to the NFL, which started practice in summer. He spent two years with the USFL, 1983-84. 

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Ultimately, Jim had to retire from the NFL and the San Francisco 49ers. He suffered several injuries, including a broken foot and two blown knees. “There’s always someone faster, stronger, cheaper who is willing to take your place,” he said, admitting it was hard to ignore the younger players who were constantly knocking at the door, hoping for a break.     

Yet he’s pleased with his performance in the NFL and satisfied with his time there. “Football taught me that there are lots of guys depending on you. You have to show up. You don’t want to let the guys down,” he said.  

The remainder of this article can be found in the January-February 2008 issue of Lake Minnetonka Living Magazine.

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