SANTA CLARA — When the NFL returns London for a second time this season, so could McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Currently the 49ers third-string quarterback, he suited up as a Minnesota Vikings backup in their Sept. 29 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bethel-Thompson raved about the experience that awaits the 49ers next week in England before they face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 27 at Wembley Stadium.
“I've got another twist for you: Did you know my grandfather won the gold medal at Wembley Stadium in 1948 in the shot put?” Bethel-Thompson said this week.
Wilbur “Moose” Thompson indeed won gold with an Olympic-record toss of 57 feet, 8 3/4 inches. His grandson's throws consisted only of the warm-up variety at Wembley last month, having stayed on the sideline during the game as Matt Cassel's backup.
“It was cool to be a part of that, the whole process of being in the same stadium as my grandfather,” Bethel-Thompson said. “The second thing, it was just a very cool environment. Talk about 90,000 people and they're good fans.
“It's a very different vibe than American stadiums. They're very into it, with flags all over the place. It's a very cool place to play.”
The 49ers played at Wembley three years ago, defeating the Denver Broncos 24-16. Only about a third of the current roster remains from that 2010, Mike Singletary-coached unit.
After playing this Sunday in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans, the 49ers will fly to England and bunker for the week at a resort near Watford, about 22 miles north of central London. The Vikings stayed in the same place last month, and Bethel-Thompson fondly recalled touring the grounds, which included World War II tunnels.
“The field's kind of in the forest, and you walk off to the side, go into the tunnels and they go into the mansion,” Bethel-Thompson said.
“They gave us evenings off and it's right by Watford, so we went into Watford a little bit. I was the (No. 2) for that week so I had to concentrate on the game plan.”
Bethel-Thompson toured London the day before the Vikings faced the Steelers at Wembley, site of one of his family's greatest moments.
“I've seen video of it,” he said of his grandfather's triumph. “We have it in the family and it goes around, along with a couple pictures.”
Moose Thompson, 93, grew up in Modesto and lives in Long Beach. He did not travel back to London for the Vikings game, nor this upcoming 49ers game. But his grandson won over the London media last month in recounting the 1948 Games.
“I got some interviews for sure. They love their Olympics over there,” Bethel-Thompson said.
The 49ers liked Bethel-Thompson enough to sign him last week in favor of John Skelton, who they signed a week earlier. Bethel-Thompson first joined the 49ers in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Sacramento State, and he got cut after training camp. He spent last season on the Vikings practice squad.
Barring another switch at the No. 3 quarterback spot, his return to the 49ers will win him a return trip to Wembley. “Obviously it'll be interesting to go back and it's kind of unique, but it's not really my focus,' he said. “My focus is ball and performing every day.”
For those wondering about his unique name, it reflects his ancestry, which also trace back to the United Kingdom. His great-grandmother, Christina McLeod, is from Scotland's Isle of Skye. “I've got so many you can't keep them straight. You don't even know my two middle names: John Baltazar. They're all family names.”