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Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY Sports

5 things to know about new 49ers running back Trey Sermon

Apr 30, 2021 at 10:22 PM--

The 49ers kept their backfield loaded on Friday by trading up to select former Ohio State running back Trey Sermon in the third round of the NFL Draft.

Sermon and his family have overcome their share of obstacles in life, both on and off the field. Now he'll have a chance to solidify himself as a contributor in what could be one of the NFL's most potent running attacks.

There's a lot to know about Sermon, who is a player 49ers fans will find to be easy to cheer for.

* A slow start at Ohio State turned into stardom: Sermon transferred to Ohio State in 2020 after spending three seasons at Oklahoma in hopes of finding more playing time. It didn't happen at first, as Sermon was a bit sluggish on the field while splitting carries with running back Master Teague. Sermon was frustrated but got some good advice from his mentor, strength and conditioning coach Tuna Burnahan.

"He felt like he was at Oklahoma again and that no one knew his worth," Burhanan told Sports Illustrated. "I told Trey, I said … they're just not giving you an opportunity, but don't let that hinder you. It makes you run slow and run like a robot and you've got to get that out of you. He just stopped thinking, changed his attitude at practice and his position on the team and in life in general."

Sermon exploded over the second half of the 2020 season and was instrumental in Ohio State's run to the national championship game. Sermon rushed for a school-record 331 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries in Ohio State's Big Ten Championship Game win over Northwestern, then followed it up with 31 carries for 193 yards and one touchdown in their semifinal playoff win over Clemson.

* He's coming off an injury: Things didn't go nearly as well for Sermon in the national championship game against Alabama, as he was forced to leave after one carry due to a shoulder injury. The injury temporarily put him in the hospital, but it shouldn't be a problem for him this season.

"I feel like it wasn't really that significant of an injury to where there should be a concern," Sermon said in March, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "At the end of the day all they have to do is just click on the tape and see me playing at a high level, so I'm not worried about it at all."

Sermon told 49ers reporters Friday night that his shoulder was 100 percent.

* His mother is an inspiration: Sermon's mother, Natoshia Mitchell, has been through unimaginable tragedy. Mitchell lost two children, one of whom was killed by a former boyfriend and another who died at birth. She lost both of her brothers, one of them to gun vioelnce, and both her parents, one of them (her father) due to a car accident. Mitchell has written about the tragedies in a book called "When My Soul Cried" and has started a nonprofit organization for domestic violence victims called Arise by Faith. She's also been working towards a doctorate degree in psychology.

"It's really inspiring because she did go through a lot and just to see how strong she was, it kind of makes me want to be just as strong as her and to be able to support her whenever she needs it," Sermon said in 2017, per OUDaily.

* He was a high school star, and showed a spark for football at a young age: At age five, Sermon had to be moved from flag football to tackle football because he was trying to do more than just grab flags. His aggressive style earned him the nickname Terminator, according to SI.

Sermon moved multiple times as a child before eventually settling in Georgia, where he became a friend of former Ohio State quarterback and teammate Justin Fields. He became a high school standout at Marietta Sprayberry High School, where he overcame a cracked vertebra suffered as a junior to rush for 1,227 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. Sermon chose the University of Oklahoma over scholarship offers from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Miami, and a number of others.

* He'll tell you he's plenty fast: Sermon was clocked at 4.58 in the 40, which isn't exactly a great time for a running back. But he has a message for anyone who thinks he might be a step slow.

"I feel like I have great speed," Sermon said Friday. "For the people who say I don't have home run speed, I feel like they haven't put on the tape. I've had a lot of long runs in my career. Against Michigan State I had a 70-yard touchdown. I feel like I have all the tools to be a great running back. For people who say that's an issue for me, I disagree. I'm just glad that this organization believes in me and I have the opportunity, so I'm going to make the most of it."

The 49ers weren't scared off by his 40 time in the least.

"Sometimes 40 times can be deceiving," 49ers general manager John Lynch said Friday. "I think what speaks to us is his 10-time was very good. You see that burst. You see that ability to stick his foot in the ground, break tackles and hit it in a hurry. Then he's very adept at making the free safety, the second level defender miss. I think he's really good out of the backfield in the pass game as well. I think he's a good fit for what we do."

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