His greatest joys came from being an integral part of championship teams.
He laughed when the topic was brought up about the 49ers' Randy Moss telling the media that he is the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game.
"On our teams, No. 1, we had great athletes," Sapolu said of the teams he played on. "No. 2, the great athletes were unselfish players. We put the team first above everyone else. Anyone who sounded selfish, we had a chemistry that we would shut it down fast.
"I got a call earlier from a reporter about the Randy Moss-Jerry Rice thing. Sometimes when you are in front of the media, you let the moment get to you, and I think from the teams we played on, we never let the moment get to us. If you're going to become an all-star it would have to come with the team and not on yourself."
So who is the greatest receiver of all time in Sapolu's opinion?
"It's without a doubt Jerry Rice. Not only based on statistics, but on the big games, three championships. I think Randy realizes this is his swan song. I would put him in the top five. I wouldn't say he's the best and 99% of reporters would know Jerry is the greatest ... Jerry is actually considered the greatest player at any position."
Sapolu also sounded off about 49ers former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who is a Hall of fame finalist, saying that he absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame.
Sapolu disagreed with the anti-gay comments made by San Francisco defensive back Chris Culliver.
"I think it's a still work in progress," Sapolu said about the perception of homosexuals in the game. "[Football] would be the toughest atmosphere for any athlete with that orientation. Will time change that? I believe so. When you get to a point when you're secure with yourself, as long as that person doesn't push his lifestyle on you, then he should be a teammate. It's going to take time, especially because it's football. It's a man's game."
Sapolu felt bad for Culliver.
"This is unnecessary attention that doesn't need to be there in the biggest game of the year, the biggest game of his life," Sapolu said. "Unless you're there in the Super Bowl you don't realize all the reporters there. Sometimes people don't handle it the way you should handle it. [Players] need to realize everything you say will be scrutinized."
Sapolu, of course, picked the 49ers to win, by at least 10 points, he said, if they are playing at their best, which he expects.
He said it's too early to tell if the 49ers are headed toward another dynasty-type era, but he likes what he sees.
"We have good young team," Sapolu said. "We have a young defense that's only going to get better. We have a young quarterback, who is mesmerizing. The sky's the limit and everything is looking up but there are no guarantees. As long as we have Coach Harbaugh there, it can be great."