SANTA CLARA, California. Like her favorite NFL team, Rita Carvalho didn’t expect quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to stay with the San Francisco 49ers so deep into the offseason. But for Carvalho, Garoppolo’s extended stay by the bay has turned social media tributes into a labor of love.

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Love for Garoppolo. Love for the Nines. Love for your boyfriend. First of all, love for art. All of this, combined with some inspiration from the Major League Baseball lockout and the pop culture world, prompted Carvalho — a 25-year-old artist based in Porto, Portugal — to start drawing Garoppolo every day until the Nines traded him.

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When she made the decision on February 3, Carvalho, like most, thought it could mean a month or two of draw. Right shoulder surgery for Garoppolo, all free agent, NFL Draft and off-season program later, and Carvalho is so used to drawing Garoppolo that she can now do it from muscle memory.

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Saturday marked 150 days of Carvalho, although it is still unclear when the end will come.

“I thought he would be traded earlier,” Carvalho said, laughing. “I started working on something last, but then I stopped because I needed to keep painting every day.”

While Garoppolo’s status and Trey Lance’s move to starting quarterback after being selected in the 2021 first-round draft have been constant topics of discussion this offseason, Carvalho’s drawings have offered a fun respite from speculation. The digital drawings Carvalho makes on his iPad using an Apple Pencil and the Procreate program depict Garoppolo in a variety of pop culture settings and often include guest appearances from teammates, coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.

The response to these designs was so positive that Carvalho and her boyfriend Filipe Souza created a store where customers can buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, prints and coffee mugs with their favorite designs.

According to Carvalho, one of the most popular is the Lion King-inspired drawing, which shows Garoppolo in place of Rafiki holding Lance as Simba. Another favorite is the Titanic homage, in which Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle take Rose and Jack’s place at the front of the doomed ship. And finally, the Dirty Dancing ode, in which Shanahan holds Garoppolo over his head, also succeeded.

Garoppolo saw the drawings and was delighted with them.

“Rita, I really appreciate it,” Garoppolo told ABC 7 in San Francisco. “It’s really cool, it just has a uniqueness to it. Let’s see how many more you draw.”

While drawing Garoppolo every day may seem like a daunting task, especially as his situation has dragged on, it has become an everyday staple for Portuguese-born Carvalho and Sousa. In a way, this cemented their relationship, which is fitting since it was Sousa who introduced Carvalho to American football, the 49ers and Garoppolo.

The couple started dating two years ago. At the time, Souza had already become a fan of the 49ers after playing the occasional game in the early 2010s and learning about the team after the game was over. In order to try to entice Carvalho with his passion for the Nines, he referred her to Garoppolo.

“He said, ‘I think you’ll like this player,'” Carvalho said. “And he introduced me to Jimmy because he was handsome. So he thought I’d like him.”

Souza was right, and the pair began following the 49ers together. Despite the eight-hour time difference between the Pacific time zone and Porto, Carvalho and Souza often stay up late to watch matches. If it’s a prime time game, they’ll record it and cut off all communication with the outside world so they can watch it the next day without spoilers.

Shortly after Garoppolo said goodbye at Zoom’s post-season press conference in early February, Sousa told Carvalho that the Nines were preparing to trade Garoppolo. Carvalho studied art in high school and graduated from the ESAD College of Art and Design in Matosinhos, Portugal in 2021. Seeking to delve deeper into her art, she takes what she calls “a hiatus year”.

As a dedicated reader and contributor to the 49ers Reddit page, Souza suggested that Carvalho draw Garoppolo and post it on Reddit. There wasn’t much inspiration for this first drawing other than a tribute to what he had done for the Nines. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Inspired by a baseball fan who drew Mike Trout every day during the MLB lockout, Carvalho decided to draw Garoppolo every day until he traded.

Suggestions for additional drawings soon poured in. Many fans from the United States have reached out to us, but the requests are global. Carvalho received support and ideas from France, Germany, Ireland and Australia, among others. These suggestions were welcome as idea generation has become the most time-consuming aspect of this journey.

Nearly every evening, Carvalho and Souza, 28, will sit and bounce ideas while immersing themselves in pop culture and current events. That most of these pop culture ideas are based on American shows and movies is no coincidence. Souza, who is a big fan of drawings inspired by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Lethal Weapon, said most shows, music, movies and even internet memes are just as popular in Portugal.

Once the couple has an idea, they will move on to discuss the different aspects of the pattern, where Garoppolo fits into it, and ways to give it their own meaning so that it becomes recognizable as their unique brand.

“It really brought us together even more because today we talk about it every day,” Souza said. “This is something we have to share… I’m so proud of her.”

Most often, drawings are made once a day, but sometimes Carvalho makes several drawings and sends them out daily by phone. Each rendering takes Carvalho from half an hour to an hour, depending on the complexity. Like any artist, Carvalho has moments when things don’t work out and he may have to back off. However, she always comes back and tries to do them all in one sitting.

Carvalho has drawn Garoppolo so many times that she could have done it blindfolded. The venture gave her a lot of practice for the profession of her dreams. She certainly pays special attention to Garoppolo’s famous jawline and brows, but says a few other nines like Kittle, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and guard Kyle Yuschik can also be drawn from muscle memory.

“I really want to be an artist and I really gave my all this year just to try to show my art,” Carvalho said. “And it was a good way to get feedback and start building a portfolio… I never thought that last year these wonderful people would send me messages saying they like my art. I am very, very grateful for this. I can practice my art every day.”

It is not yet known how long Carvalho will be doing this. Garoppolo is expected to be cleared to resume shooting in early July, with a move likely to follow shortly thereafter. Shanahan recently said again that he expects Garoppolo to likely be traded after he returns from shoulder surgery.

Which, of course, begs the question of what Carvalho has planned for the grand finale.

“People are really expecting something big at the end,” Carvalho said. “I can’t disappoint.”