Dee Ford likes to use music to help clear his mind. The day before he was set to test his injured hamstring at 49ers practice in Florida, he decided to stop into a nearby music store in Bradenton.
Adam Birmingham, a local high school senior with big musical dreams, was also there Tuesday. That was hardly unusual. Birmingham has been at the Bradenton Guitar Center store nearly every day for months, admiring and even playing a guitar that’s beyond his means, and otherwise out of reach.
What followed was a wonderful tale of serendipity. A story so unbelievable the teenager is still having a hard time processing a gift from a stranger, one who never let on that he’s really an NFL All-Pro in town getting ready to play against the Saints on Sunday.
— Jeremy Birmingham (@Birm) December 4, 2019
Birmingham had already plucked the Fender Stratocaster of his dreams off the wall and began playing some heavy metal chords. At $650, it’s a guitar Birmingham said he just can’t afford, especially since he isn’t working. But he said playing and “getting to see all the new gear that comes in” draws him into the store “almost every day.” His friend, Aidan Burge, who works in the store, set the record straight. “He’s in there every day.”
While Birmingham played on this day, Ford took notice. And not out of idle curiosity. The 28-year-old Ford has long been a musical aficionado. He deftly plays the piano, keyboard, drums and … the guitar.
So Ford walked over, grabbed a guitar and began playing alongside the 18-year-old.
“We wound up jamming and talking for about 45 minutes,” Birmingham said.
During that time, Ford would come to learn Adam had been playing guitar for about six years and is in a band with his buddies (“Ancient Foundations”). And he’s busy writing while trying to wrap up their first album. Birmingham also shares his excitement about his impending school transfer, where his new high school offers a guitar class.
After their lengthy visit, the cool guy Birmingham knew only as “Dee,” continued to shop in the store for music software. When Ford found what he needed, Burge was busy ringing up the items totaling more than $2,000 when it hit him who this customer was.
“Ohhh, ‘Dee’ is Dee Ford!” Burge said. “I didn’t even know who he was … and I had him on my fantasy football team for two straight years.”
Before leaving, Ford came back over to Birmingham.
“He said, ‘You know what would be crazy? If I could get you anything in this store right now, anything … what would it be?’ ” Birmingham recalled. “I’m like …. ‘What?
“And he said, ‘Go pick something off the wall.’ ”
While almost in a state of disbelief, Birmingham was still lucid enough to reach for the familiar Fender Stratocaster he never thought he’d be able to take home. He thanked Ford profusely and then, before leaving, the 49ers star stopped for a final moment.
“The last thing he said was, ‘pay it forward,’ ” Birmingham said. “It was an amazing act of kindness. I think of it as an early Christmas present.”
Birmingham laughed when he recalled his drive home from the guitar store after his encounter with Ford on Tuesday.
“When I was driving, I’m not lying to you, I turned to look at my backseat where the guitar was about four times!” he said. “I was like, ‘Did this really happen?’
“I thought I might have been dreaming.”
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