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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Elijah Mitchell willing to do ‘anything and everything’ to make 49ers roster

Aug 9, 2021 at 2:03 PM

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As a sixth-round draft pick, rookie running back Elijah Mitchell understands that his best path to NFL stardom goes through special teams early on. He was the second running back drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and finds himself part of a deep group of backs.

At the top of the depth chart is Raheem Mostert. Third-round draft pick Trey Sermon has been getting a lot of reps in training camp and figures to be the first player off the bench when Mostert comes off the field. The team added Wayne Gallman, a big contributor for the New York Giants last year, and still has Jeff Wilson and JaMycal Hasty. Wilson (knee) probably won't return to the field until October, at the earliest, though.

Mitchell racked up 3,267 rushing yards and 41 rushing touchdowns on 527 collegiate carries. That's 6.2 yards per carry for the speedy running back. Mitchell says he is faster now than in college after some weight loss, contributing to his 4.38-second 40-time during his pro day. The rookie figures that number is down from about a 4.5-second time. He estimates he weighed about 215 pounds in college and is now listed at nearly 15 pounds lighter.

"Ever since then, it's been really helping me moving faster and just feeling good," Mitchell told reporters this weekend of his weight loss.

He later added: "I got way faster."

Mitchell says that his role with the 49ers is much different than what he is used to. He had 16 catches for 153 yards as a senior with the Ragin' Cajuns in 2020, but to make the 49ers as a running back, you have to prove yourself dependable as a pass catcher too.

"Most definitely, it's a lot different (than what I've done before), but I'm catching on pretty well with the routes and stuff," Mitchell admits.

The rookie is on a mission to prove himself to special teams coordinator Richard Hightower. Versatility and contributing on special teams will be the key for the running back to secure a spot.

"It's crazy because I never did special teams in college at all, so doing special teams—I'm a gunner now—I just have to take that real serious and do good in preseason, and I can do my job," Mitchell shared.

Hightower is showing Mitchell film of a former gunner who worked his way into a significant role on offense—Mostert. Mitchell says he watches film of his teammate almost every single day, learning from him and hoping to follow a similar path to a more significant role.

"Like I said, I'm willing to do anything and everything just to be on this team," Mitchell added. "So, [special teams] is going to be one of my roles but also being a running back too. But have I have to take special teams seriously, and that's what I plan to do."


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