UH defensive line coach Vantz Singletary, left, worked closely with his uncle, Mike Singletary, a 49ers assistant, during his summer internship with the team.

Family affair
for Singletary

Vantz Singletary's NFL internship was more like a reunion this year.

Singletary, the Hawaii defensive line coach, was working with the San Francisco 49ers since mid-July. He returns to Hawaii tonight and begins preparing for the opening of UH preseason camp Friday.

UH Football Singletary worked closely with his uncle, 49ers first-year assistant head coach Mike Singletary. He also worked with his former player, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga, and got reacquainted with linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, a UH star in 1999 (Singletary's first year at UH).

This is Singletary's eighth NFL internship. He said the family connection made it special.

"No question. Just being with Mike has been great. He's like my dad -- he got me plugged into life, and coaching. I've tried to emulate him in many ways. Not just X's and O's. He made me a better person by teaching me to work hard and be organized," Singletary said. "Right after he retired (as a player) he invited me to the Bears camp as a visiting coach (in 1995). He got me started in coaching, seeing it done at the highest level."

Vantz and Mike Singletary both raved about Sopoaga, who sat out his rookie season last year with a back problem. He's now battling for the starting nose guard position in the 49ers' 3-4 alignment.

"I'm really proud of Isaac," Vantz Singletary said. "He's applying himself. His back is strong. I know he hasn't played one preseason game yet, but there's a lot of excitement about him. He's certainly matured and he's knocking people off the ball."

Mike Singletary said the 6-foot-2, 321-pound Sopoaga has a bright future with San Francisco.

"He's doing great. He's right where he needs to be," the Hall of Fame linebacker said. "The biggest thing for him is to stay healthy. I'm not sure if his back will ever be 100 percent, but he's playing like it is. Sopoaga's a great kid. He's quiet, but he's fun. He's having a good time. He plugs right in."

He also looks for continued good things from Ulbrich, a starting inside linebacker.

"He has tremendous passion," Mike Singletary said of the sixth-year pro. "He has a million questions and he's grown into a tremendous leader."

The 49ers are trying to bounce back from a league-worst 2-14 season. There's off-field patching up to do too, as an in-house video offensive to some women and minorities became public in the offseason. Mike Singletary, part of a new coaching staff, said he won't worry about what's outside of his realm.

"No, I'll leave that to the politicians and management. The most important thing is focusing on winning. That will let the fans know we care about them. Do it in a class way and bring pride to the city," he said.

Meanwhile, Vantz Singletary said he isn't disappointed he doesn't have an NFL coaching job yet (a stated goal of his) and he is excited about UH's upcoming season.

"I enjoy the college kids. I just don't know when the time comes how I'll feel. I know I will never get bored or disappointed (coaching college)," he said. "I've become a better coach and teacher being here. Most kids in college want to get to the NFL, or at least have a chance, and I think I've helped some reach that goal. I can pick up the phone and call a Tony Dungy, a Mike Nolan. I tell the players if they trust their technique and play hard, they'll get in a camp."

Mike Singletary enjoyed the time with his nephew.

"Vantz has been great. He makes us better. It's never awkward. I was just excited to see him. It's better than I thought it'd be, and I thought it'd be great."

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