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Five 49ers with Arizona connections to return vs. Cardinals

© Billy Hardiman/Special for The Republic

The Arizona Cardinals (3-10) will return off of a bye week as they host NFC Division leaders in the San Francisco 49ers (10-3) on Sunday.

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In doing so, five members from San Francisco will get to play in the valley where they have ties to: quarterback Brock Purdy, wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, linebacker Randy Gregory, linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Time in AZ

Steve Wilks

Dec 23, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks looks on during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Out of the group, Wilks is the only one who has had a previous relationship with the Cardinals. In the 2018 season, Wilks replaced Bruce Arians as Arizona’s 41st head coach in franchise history and led them to their worst record since 2000, going 3-13. Ironically, his first victory as a NFL head coach was against the 49ers in Week 5 of 2018. Wilks was fired by the Cardinals on Dec. 18, 2018.

Brock Purdy

2017; Gilbert, AZ, USA; Brock Purdy of Gilbert Perry High School. Mandatory Credit: Tom Tingle-USA TODAY NETWORK

For Purdy, he is a Queen Creek native who played for Perry High School in Gilbert. He started three of his four years at Perry, was named Gatorade’s Football Player of the Year and led the Pumas to a 27-13 record during his tenure. As a three-star recruit, Purdy went to Iowa State University before becoming the 262nd and last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, dawning the nickname “Mr. Irrelevant.”

Brandon Aiyuk

Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (2) during the spring practice game on Feb. 28, 2019 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
Asu Spring Football Practice Game 2019. © Rob Schumacher/The Republic

Additionally, Aiyuk transferred from Sierra College in Rocklin, California to Arizona State University in 2018. There, Aiyuk would spend two years with ASU, gathered 1,666 yards from 98 receptions and score 11 touchdowns. As a result, Aiyuk was member of the first-team All-PAC-12 during his time in Tempe, which would see him becoming the 25th selection in the 2020 NFL Draft by the 49ers.

Randy Gregory 

Nov 19, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers linebacker Randy Gregory (5) before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Furthermore, Gregory spent one season with Arizona Western College in Yuma after picking up a broken fibula injury during his sophomore year in 2012. Gregory would amass 82 tackles, three forced fumbles and nine sacks for Arizona Western before transferring to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Since then, Gregory played five seasons for the Dallas Cowboys, one for the Denver Broncos and split time this year with Denver and now the 49ers following a trade.

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles

Sep 19, 2015; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (12) during the second quarter against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at Arizona Stadium. Arizona won 77-13. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, Tuscon native and Mountain View High School product Flannigan-Fowles returns to his home state of Arizona on Sunday. Down south, he recorded 243 tackles, three forced fumbles, 22 passes defended and six interceptions in 50 games for the Wildcats. Going undrafted, the 49ers signed him as a free agent in 2019. To this point, Flannigan-Fowles has been with San Fransisco for four seasons, collecting 66 tackles and defending one pass through 57 games in the NFL.

The Cardinals will face the 49ers inside State Farm Stadium on Dec. 17 at 2:05 p.m. on CBS.

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Alec Cipollini covers the Arizona Coyotes and Cardinals for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his X account @AlecCipollini

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