The 49ers have always held a special place in Salata's heart. They gave him his shot at the NFL.
Naturally, the Newport Beach resident, and creator of Mr. Irrelevant, is excited for Super Bowl XLVII. He leaves for New Orleans on Tuesday and will be in the Superdome on Feb. 3 to watch the 49ers play against the Baltimore Ravens.
Salata, 86, said having the 49ers in the Big Game is like having a family member playing for the Super Bowl championship.
"I was appreciative of the opportunity," Salata said of his stint with the 49ers. "That's why I support them."
Salata, a wide receiver out of USC, played for the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast League in 1948. He led that league in catches, he said, and caught the attention of the 49ers, who invited him to try out for the team.
He played for the 49ers in 1949 and through six games in 1950 before being traded to Baltimore. Salata caught five passes in the first six games in 1950 and then went on to catch 45 more passes from Y.A. Tittle for Baltimore.
After the 1950 season, the Baltimore Colts folded and the players went into the NFL Draft. Tittle was drafted by the 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers took Salata in the 10th round. Salata said the Steelers picked him because he had 10 receptions against them.
The Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League offered him twice what he was making, Salata said, and he bolted to Canada.
After three years in the CFL, Salata became a successful businessman, specializing in rock and gravel. His notoriety as a football player and his friendships with guys like Tittle helped his business, he said.
Salata is known for his love of all things USC, but when it comes to the NFL, he's all about the 49ers.
"It was a big jump from USC to the 49ers," Salata said. "The difference between barely lettering at USC and starting in the NFL is huge."
Salata said the Trojans didn't pass the ball very much, "maybe once a month," he joked.
But Salata was always ready to perform, and he did for the 49ers. He caught the 49ers first NFL touchdown in 1950 when San Francisco made its debut. He also caught the 49ers final touchdown in the All-American Football conference in 1949.
Salata wore jersey No. 55 for the 49ers. These days linebacker Ahmad Brooks wears that number.
Salata said wide receivers were in the 50s back in his day.
He has a jersey with his own name and that number in his office in Newport Beach.
He continues to attend the 49ers alumni weekend in San Francisco.
He feels that the winning tradition has returned.
He was around in the 1980s and got to know the late Bill Walsh well and keeps in touch with Jesse Sapolu for all things 49ers.
Recently, Salata was featured in the book, "San Francisco 49ers, Where Have You Gone?" by Matt Maiocco.
In it, Salata reveals one of his several funny stories.
When he was in San Francisco, most people thought Salata was an Italian and he would receive free food from the Italian restaurant owners.
But a San Francisco newspaper ruined his deal for free grub, when a story was published with the headline, "Serbian Prince Starts for the 49ers."
"When they found out I was Yugoslavian they cut off my free dinners," Salata says in the book.
The chapter also details his creations of Mr. Irrelevant, the final pick in the NFL Draft, and Irrelevant Week, the celebration of the underdog that takes place in Newport Beach and other parts of Orange County.
Salata announces the final pick at the NFL Draft. He's become famous because of it. So he has attended several Super Bowl games.
"I've been to all but three or four," Salata says of the Super Bowl games he's attended.
He was there the last time the 49ers played in the Big Game, in Super Bowl XXIX, when San Francisco beat San Diego.
Salata believes the 49ers will win their sixth title in the 47th Super Bowl.
If they do, he'll be there to celebrate with them.