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Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

49ers rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga on 49ers legacies, learning from Troy Polamalu

May 12, 2021 at 4:30 PM--

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The connections to some of the all-time great safeties are strong for 49ers rookie Talanoa Hufanga as he begins his NFL career.

Hufanga, who was selected by the 49ers in Round 5 of the 2021 NFL Draft after a standout career as a safety at USC, is currently at 49ers facilities with other members of his draft class as he prepares for rookie minicamp this weekend (Friday-Saturday). He spoke to reporters on Wednesday about his relationship to three legendary safeties in particular in Troy Polamalu, 49ers legend Ronnie Lott, and 49ers general manager John Lynch.

Hufanga first spoke about Polamalu, with whom he has a well-documented relationship after the former Steelers standout and fellow USC product agreed to train with him heading into the draft. Polamalu has become a mentor to Hufanga, both on and off the field.

"A lot of what we did was very unique to our training," Hufanga said. "It wasn't designed to run the 40 and do these things because a lot of it is the mental training outside of football and what it is for life. Troy would be the first to tell you that a lot of his focus I think was football, but a lot of it was everything outside -- having balance and being able to provide for his family as well."

Hufanga was later asked about Lott and whether or not he heard from Lott on social media after he was picked by the 49ers. He hasn't, but as was the case at USC, where Lott also holds legendary status, Hufanga is honored to have the chance to follow in Lott's footsteps as he begins his 49ers career.

"To be honest, I'm not a big person on social media, so I'm not sure if I have the following or if he messaged me or not," Hufanga said. "Honestly, I was off for three years from college -- got back on, got back off. So I'm not really on it, so I couldn't tell you if he hit me up through there. That's a legacy right there. It means a lot to me. Talking with Troy, we're just excited for this opportunity to make the most of it."

Lynch, who recently became the third player in that trio to be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, told reporters after drafting Hufanga that he saw some similarities between the two of them in playing style. Hufanga was humbled to have been given that comparison.

"That is just surreal to hear something like that," Hufanga said. "I can't compare myself to him because he's arguably one of the best to be in the business to do it. When you've got shoes to fill like that, you just try to make the most in your own way. He's (a Hall of Famer) so I've got to give him respect and honor because that's unbelievable."

Hufanga comes to the 49ers after a career at USC that saw him win All-Pac 12 honors twice and conference defensive player of the year in 2020. No one was happier to be selected by the 49ers as he was on draft day, and it doesn't seem like his excitement over his opportunity is going to die down anytime soon.

"I'm blessed," Hufanga said. "I just want to thank God for this opportunity. Being able to (fly) here and land at the airport, I just try to take in everything. Driving up and being able to see the facilities is an incredible process. I'm really just enjoying it."

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