NEW ORLEANS -- Darius Fleming is a South Side kid, through and through. And the St. Rita product is more than proud to represent Chicago's Gresham neighborhood in Super Bowl XLVII.
Fleming, who starred at Notre Dame before being drafted in the fifth round in 2012 by the 49ers, hopes to inspire others from his neighborhood, which has endured its share of shootings.
"This is awesome," Fleming said of being part of the Super Bowl experience. "As a kid growing, you always dream about situations like this. Now, it's a dream come true. For me, I like to do things so I can show that dreams are possible. So for people in my neighborhood who aren't in the best situations, this isn't just a dream for me. This is a dream for everybody else just to show that you can do things like this."
Fleming is on the physically unable to perform list after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the summer. But he's happy in San Francisco.
"It's a very unfortunate situation, but at the same time I'm in a fortunate situation because it happened, but I'm in a great organization with great players, great teammates and great coaches, who love this game just as much as I do," Fleming said. "I'm fortunate to be here and I wouldn't want to be in any other place. They have faith in me that I can come back next year and participate and give an effort for the team. I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
Fleming has a great opportunity to learn from the 49ers' star linebackers: Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith. And he knows it.
"It's awesome," Fleming said. "Even though I got hurt, just the fact that I'm learning from some of the top linebackers and being in this defense is awesome for me. It's a big learning tool for me coming back next year."
Fleming never thought about being part of the Super Bowl -- or even football -- until his freshman year in high school. He didn't wear a helmet and pads until then.
"Going into high school, I wasn't football player. I was bowling then," he said. "This wasn't dream my freshman year, but as I got into the sport, I started getting a passion for game. It's shaped my life. I wouldn't want to bowl now instead of playing football, that's for sure."