Brandon Jacobs wanted to thank Giants fan Joseph Armento, 6, who emptied his piggy bank to try to get the running back to stay with New York.

49ers' Jacobs meets his biggest fan

Published: Thursday, Jun. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, Jun. 21, 2012 - 4:40 pm

SANTA CLARA – If you happened to be at the Jump On In bounce house in Boonton, N.J., on Wednesday, you saw quite a sight: a 6-foot-4, 266-pound NFL running back flailing about on inflatable castles and slides like a first-grader hopped up on Sweet Tarts.

That running back was the 49ers' Brandon Jacobs, who took 6-year-old Joseph Armento and his 4-year-old brother for an outing they likely won't forget.

Armento is the New Jersey boy who, when told the hometown New York Giants could no longer afford to keep Jacobs, emptied his piggy bank – all $3.36 – and sent it to California in an effort keep his favorite player with the Giants.

Jacobs was touched by the gesture and told Armento's mother, Julie, that he would be in the area for a short time this week while he packed and moved his family to the Bay Area. He thought his original idea for a meeting place, Chuck E. Cheese, might cause too much of scene. So they settled on the bounce houses.

Jacobs, 29, brought his 5-year-old son, Brayden, and the four kids – Jacobs included – played nonstop for nearly two hours. No one even took a water break.

"He told me he really wanted to get out there with the kids," Julie Armento said in a phone interview. "He really wanted to enjoy it, and he did. It was amazing."

Said Jacobs: "It was just us in the whole place, and we were just going room to room – just bouncing and flipping all over the place, hitting each other with balls, sweating, our shirts filthy. We were just dirty, stinky boys, you know?"

Joseph was blown away. Jacobs also gave him a signed Giants football helmet. Jacobs signed it with his former number, 27. (He wears No. 45 with the 49ers.) It reads: "To Joe: Thanks for being a fan. God bless, Brandon Jacobs."

Julie Armento said she sent Joseph's letter in March, soon after the 49ers signed Jacobs to a one-year contract. She sent it to Candlestick Park in San Francisco, but Jacobs and the 49ers practice in Santa Clara. Jacobs didn't get the letter until earlier this month, and he called the Armentos the next day.

"When we first spoke, he said that he was genuinely touched by the letter, that it almost brought him to tears," Armento said. "He said it came at just the right time for him."

Said Jacobs: "I'm at a point in my career when people have stopped believing in me and not believing that I can still play. But that's not the case. Joe believes in me, gave me a lot of confidence and a lot of want-to.

"And I'm ready to go. I can't wait until the season starts."

Jacobs had one final gift for Joseph – a $5 bill. After all, Jacobs ended up signing with the 49ers, so it was only fair the boy get his piggy bank money back.

"He had some interest in there just for being a good kid," Jacobs said. "He's worth a lot more than that $5 bill I gave him."

Jenkins signs – The 49ers signed first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins to a four-year deal worth as much as $6.9 million.

All seven draft picks are under contract more than a month before training camp begins in late July.

Jenkins and the rest of the 49ers rookies wrapped up a minicamp Wednesday.

Neither coach Jim Harbaugh – he's building houses in Peru – nor general manager Trent Baalke attended the three-day session. Assistant coaches and Baalke's top lieutenant, Tom Gamble, were in charge.

Banks' tryout ends – Brian Banks, the recently exonerated linebacker, finished his tryout with the 49ers and is heading back to Southern California without a contract.

Banks, 26, is trying to recapture a football career that was put on hold when he was accused of raping and kidnapping a classmate when he was 16. His alleged victim recanted her story last year, which led to Banks being cleared. He had served five years in prison and another five on probation and would have been registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Banks is working his way back into football shape and will resume training in Orange County. He's had workouts with the 49ers, Seahawks, Chargers and Chiefs. Other teams have shown interest, but with most coaches and general managers on vacation, Banks does not have any workouts lined up in the near future.

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Read more articles by Matthew Barrows

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