Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan explains why Elijah Mitchell is ‘made of the right stuff’ for NFL success

Nov 1, 2021 at 5:41 PM--

It looks like the San Francisco 49ers got a steal when they drafted running back Elijah Mitchell in the sixth round in April. The rookie has become the featured back in head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense following the loss of Raheem Mostert. Mitchell rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against the Chicago Bears this past weekend, earning a FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week nomination.

Mitchell now has 433 total rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns while adding four receptions for 30 yards through five games and four starts this season.

Shanahan spoke with reporters today and was asked what has made the 23-year-old Mitchell so special so quickly.

"I think he is a very talented guy, but to make it in this league, especially as a rookie and the situations he's been in, you can't just be talented with your physical skills," Shanahan said. "You've got to be made with the right stuff too. He is an extreme pro in terms of — he doesn't say a lot — but he takes coaching. Bobby [Turner] coaches those guys very hard. He never takes it personally. He always is trying to get better.

"He's extremely tough. He's had to play through some injuries here since he's been going, and so far, he's showed he's got what it takes to make it in this league."

One of the more impressive plays from Sunday's win — aside from wide receiver Deebo Samuel's 83-yard reception — might have been Mitchell's rugby-style run into the end zone that saw the running back joined by several teammates. The play was seen as a symbol of the team's effort and will to snap its four-game losing streak.

Today, Shanahan had an opportunity to watch the play with his team.

"That was one that I showed in front of the whole team," Shanahan shared. "There was about 12 clips. I always make little notes on our computers that go with plays, that I always do just for myself. I write on plays. I just write 'WIT,' which means what it takes and what it takes to win football games. And we had a number of clips like that.

"I go back to like, Elijah's second run on the game. I think it was the fourth play of the game. It was first-and-10 and ran power and he got stopped at the line of scrimmage, but him and [Kyle Juszczyk] kept driving their feet, and he got seven yards and made it second-and-three. And it's a little play in the game, but that play to me shows everything.

"You need stuff like that. That's what it's going to take to win. From Deebo's third-and-19, the first third down that we had in the third quarter, we got set back with the clipping penalty on that screen and just trying to call the screen to get back so you can punt and flip the field. But Deebo hid in that lane and just watch all 11 guys on that play, just how hard they went to not just get a first down, but to get a touchdown. And that's the stuff that it takes to win.

"And then finishing it at the end when you think you're going to get stopped there on the four-yard line, then watching 11 guys who are desperate for a win, doing everything they can. You can see it on the silent tape and watching them push it in there. I think that's a very inspiring thing for a player, for a whole offense, and for a team, and that's why it was fun to watch that together."

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