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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

5 things to know about new 49ers OL Jon Feliciano

Mar 20, 2023 at 6:33 PM

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The 49ers added an important depth piece to their offensive line Monday by agreeing to terms with Jon Feliciano, who comes to San Francisco after a one-year stint with the New York Giants.

Feliciano, 31, joined the NFL in 2015 as a fourth-round draft pick of the then-Oakland Raiders out of the University of Miami (Fla). Feliciano (6-4, 325) played three seasons with the Buffalo Bills (2019-2021) before signing with the Giants in 2022.

There's a lot to Jon Feliciano, who comes to San Francisco as one of the more fascinating figures in the NFL. Let's dive into where he fits in with the 49ers, and the long road he took to get to where he is.

He can help the 49ers in a number of ways but also has a position he thinks is his strongest

Feliciano has 54 starts in 97 NFL games and has played center, guard and tackle throughout his football career. He's spent much of his career at guard dating back to college but played center for the Giants in 2022.

Feliciano was given a 57.7 grade by Pro Football Focus for his 2022 season. He gave up three sacks and six penalties in 971 snaps, according to the site GMenHQ.

"Feliciano experienced both highs and lows," wrote Reese Nasser of GMenHQ. "At times, he was arguably the weakest point on the offensive line. But in other games, he was a driving force who single-handedly created big plays."

The immediate reaction to Feliciano's signing by the 49ers is that he'll fill the role vacated by the departure of Daniel Brunskill, who signed with the Tennessee Titans. Brunskill helped in multiple spots along the offensive line during his days with the 49ers and split snaps with then-rookie Spencer Burford at right guard in 2022.

Feliciano said in an hour-long interview The Ariel Helwani Show in 2022 that he is better at right guard than at left guard while his best position is at center. But he didn't have much of a chance to show it in Oakland and Buffalo due to the centers they already had on the roster.

"Honestly, it's been my best position forever," Feliciano told Helwani. "But when I was in Oakland, they had Rodney Hudson, who had been the best center in the league for the last five, six years... And then that same year (as signing with Buffalo), they signed Mitch (Morse), who's a great guy, great center. I think he was the highest paid center at one point. So I just get plugged in at guard."

Feliciano will be among a number of linemen who will be competing for a spot on the 49ers' roster in the months ahead, but his experience and versatility will certainly give him an advantage.

A challenging childhood

Born in East Meadow, New York, Feliciano was just three years old when his parents were divorced. His mother, Alicia, is a two-time cancer survivor, while his younger brother Chris was born deaf. Feliciano moved to Miami after the divorce, then moved north to Davie, Florida when he was in fifth grade. Feliciano's family lived in a trailer in Davie, and along the way he had some problems with his older brother, Rafael, who was violent at times towards him and his mother. Rafael's aggression drove Feliciano away from his favorite sport of basketball and towards the more physical sport of football.

"He would beat me up," Feliciano said of Rafael in a 2017 feature for ESPN. "That was one of the reasons I started playing football. I wanted to work out so that I could fight back. He was violent."

When he was in tenth grade, the trailer Feliciano lived in was condemned. His other family members moved back to New York, but Feliciano stayed in Miami, determined to realize a dream.

Driven to be a Hurricane

Feliciano fell in love with the University of Miami during his time in Florida and decided he wanted to do whatever he needed to do in order to become a part of their football team. That included sleeping at different homes, including those of his girlfriend and his late best friend, Sean Cole.

"Since I was young, my dad always tried to get me and move up to New York, but I was just hell bent on becoming a Miami Hurricane," Feliciano told Helwani. "I only started playing football in ninth grade. I wasn't like, a big name athlete, like a big name prospect, and I was like, I need to stay down here if I want to go to Miami.

"So from like, 10th grade to the summer before 12th grade, I was just bouncing around different homes. My then-girlfriend, their family was very great to me, clothing me and feeding me and giving me a place to sleep. And my best friend who's passed, his family, Sean Cole, his family, I swear, I spent most of my time just sleeping in his room on a little twin bed on the floor."

There were even times when Feliciano made his way back to his family's condemned trailer, with no electricity or water, just because he felt guilty about staying with his friends.

"My buddy's mom worked with my mom for a while, and then they were a single family home," Feliciano said. "His dad and mom were divorced, too. They didn't have that much money. And I just felt bad. I didn't want to feel like a burden to people."

It didn't occur to Feliciano that what he was doing was unusual. But it worked in the end, as he eventually wound up as a member of the Hurricanes.

"It was like that for a good year and a half, but honestly, I thought it was normal," Feliciano said. "I didn't realize that that wasn't out of the norm. Yeah, I was basically homeless for a year and a half."

Tough moments in the NFL

Feliciano initially found that life in the NFL didn't equate to happiness. He struggled with suicidal thoughts early in his career, especially after his friend Sean Cole tragically died in a car accident in 2016. The loss of Cole, who was an encouraging presence to Feliciano on his road to the University of Miami, was difficult to bear.

"That was the height of it," Feliciano told Helwani. "That was in Oakland. That's kind of when it started. Just like the realization of, okay, I got money, I'm in the NFL. Why am I not happy? I was covering. I was just keeping everything down. Basically I was keeping it down. Like, okay, once you get to the league, once you get money, everything's going to be great. And then when I got there and things aren't great, family stuff is getting harder, then I lose my best friend in my second year. Then I was kind of a mess."

Feliciano's mental health was also having a negative effect on his marriage with his wife, Shannon.

"I was definitely a little suicidal," Feliciano said. "I was definitely, like, doing things that was just trying to like, me and my wife had always had a great relationship, but I would do stupid things to kind of break that up because I didn't feel like I deserve happiness or deserve a family like I have right now."

The turning point for Feliciano came when he was having suicidal thoughts while spending time with one of his friends. After that, Feliciano decided to talk to a team doctor and also eventually began reading self-help books, which he credits with turning his life around.

"When I knew I was really messed up, I was sitting with my buddy at his apartment, and it was like, three stories high. And I was like, for some reason, in the back of my mind, there was just like, something whispering in my head, like, 'You know, you can jump off. You can jump off right now. It can be over.' And then that really scared me."

Feliciano now has a family of his own, including his daughter Shawn Cole, whom he named after his late friend. His life seems to be in a much better place at the moment, even though he remains distant with his older brother and his mother. Feliciano hasn't forgotten the road he's traveled, but he's also been able to put his problems in the past and focus in what's ahead of him.

"I definitely try not to remember some things, but definitely I feel like I can't forget where I came from because it was so, I want to say traumatic, but it was just so there," Feliciano said. "I've definitely dealt with depression, anxiety, all that stuff, and it had a lot to do with mommy issues and older brother issues that I'm happy to say that I feel like I've put that stuff behind me in the last year or two, especially dealing with the death of my best friend, Sean Cole, who I was living with and who knew everything, who I could always talk to and not feel judged or whatnot. But yeah, I can't forget where I came from."

And, in addition to getting his personal life to a good place, Feliciano has been able to put together a successful NFL career. He's done a better job in the pros than some might have expected, and he's had to overcome more than most to make it happen.

"I pride myself in still being here," Feliciano said. "A lot of my former teammates, like, in college and stuff, who I thought were better in different positions or got more notoriety or whatever, to still be here and outlasting some of the guys feels good."

A gamer, among other things

Feliciano has a number of interests away from football, starting with video games, which is something he's been passionate about since he was a boy. He even has a Pokemon tattoo to prove it.

"I've been playing games since I can remember," Feliciano once told "Probably my first game that really took over my life was any Pokemon game."

Feliciano is also into writing ("I've got some things that I work on on the downlow -- some lyrics, some rap lyrics. I've got some stories. I've got a whole bunch of everything," he told and is a chef ("I make a mean chicken parm," he said). He has a nickname of "Mongo," which was given to him by Cole and his friend Josh Palmer.

And when it comes to football, he's got one major goal he'd still like to accomplish.

"Man, I want to win a Super Bowl," Feliciano told Tyler Dunne of GoLong earlier this month. "That's the ultimate one. I don't really care about the other accolades. I'll take 'em, but that's not really what really gets me up. I'll take a Pro Bowl, I'll take All Pro, all that. But I really just want to win a Super Bowl."
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