Before the great hard-hitting duo of FS Dashon Goldson and SS Donte Whitner there was FS Lance Schulters and SS Zack Bronson patrolling the San Francisco 49ers secondary. Bronson and Schulters would go on to play four seasons together from 1998-2001, as they formed one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. Bronson known for his ballhawking ability and vicious hits was a great leader in the backend of the defense while Schulters also possessed the ability to do the same. The two players were vastly underrated but the Forever Faithful would recognize them as one of the lone brights spots during the 49ers gloomy seasons in 1999 and 2000. During that span the team would only win 10 games. So how good were these two safeties? Really good.
Bronson, an undrafted rookie free-agent out of McNeese State, made a name for himself on special teams. Like many of the undrafted rookie free-agents today, that is their best chance to crack the roster. During Bronson’s rookie campaign he racked up 24 tackles and one interception. The next season, Bronson would share time at the safety position with SS Tim McDonald and had a career season as he tied a team-high four interceptions. Bronson would go on and finish his career with 191 tackles, 19 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and 32 passes defensed. As for Schulters, he was no slouch by any means.
Schulters originally broke into the league in 1998 as a fourth-round pick (No. 119) out of Hofstra. Yes, Hofstra. If you recall that is where third-round bust QB Giovanni Carmazzi came from. Schulters would eventually replace the great FS Merton Hanks, and in 1999 made his first Pro Bowl appearance. During that season, Schulters registered 61 tackles, six interceptions (one returned for touchdown), and nine passes defensed. I vividly remember the one returned touchdown that season, as it happened at Candlestick Park against the New Orleans Saints in 1999. With the score tied 21-21, Schulters would intercept a pass and take it 64 yards to the house! The place was rockin’.
Aside from being a playmaker, Schulters was also the ultimate trash talker. A hater of the rival St. Louis Rams, Schulters would call the Rams wide receivers “soft.” Schulters would go on and also call out WR Isaac Bruce and WR Torry Holt, saying:
They’re just so cocky, man, like you can’t touch them. Like their receivers, they expect you not to touch them. You push them and they’re like, ‘Oh, ref, did you see what he did to me?’ C’mon man, this is football. It’s like they’re prima donnas or something.
Schulters would go on to play two more seasons in San Francisco before signing a lucrative long-term contract with the Tennessee Titans much like TE Delanie Walker did this off-season. In four seasons in San Francisco, Schulters would record 174 tackles, nine interceptions, and 23 passes defensed. A fan favorite, Schulters departure was very similar to Goldson’s, bittersweet.