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49ers CB Deommodore Lenoir reveals a battle with personal tragedy in 2021

Aug 23, 2022 at 1:44 PM--

As if dealing with the challenges of up-and-down rookie year on the field wasn't enough, cornerback Deommodore Lenoir revealed Tuesday that he had to fight through personal loss while playing with the 49ers last season.

Lenoir was a significant contributor over his first three games with the 49ers in 2021, starting twice while totaling 191 defensive snaps. But his contributions on defense dropped off from there, as he saw just 46 defensive snaps the rest of the season and was on the inactive list for a three-game stretch from Week 7 to Week 9.

So what happened with Lenoir last year? He had some rookie growing pains in terms of learning what it takes to be a pro, but he also had to deal with the death of a cousin, as well as some unfortunate circumstances with his brother.

"I had a lot going on at the time," Lenoir told reporters after practice Tuesday. "I lost my cousin. I really didn't announce it because it was just something to like hold in. I had lost my cousin, my brother was paralyzed. So it was just kind of a lot for me."

This isn't the first time Lenoir has had to deal with family tragedy. When he was younger, Lenoir lost a brother to gun violence in Los Angeles.

Lenoir persevered through that tragedy and was forced to do the same as a rookie in 2021. It seems like he's looking forward now and is focusing on his growth as a player, which is something he's welcoming after what he went through last season.

"This is my happy place, kind of take my mind off things," Lenoir said. "I can be able to enjoy and do something that I love with my brothers."

The 49ers drafted Lenoir in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft after he finished his college career at the University of Oregon. After being a three-year starter for the Ducks following a standout high school career in Los Angeles, spending time on the sidelines was a change for Lenoir. But he used that adversity as an opportunity to learn how to handle life in the NFL.

"I think I just needed to develop more, get in that mindset of some games you may play, some games you may not," Lenoir said. "You've still got to work. At the end of the day, this is our job and this is what we do for a living. So you've just got to fit in where you get in."

The way his rookie season concluded led to some question among reporters and fans over whether or not Lenoir would have a spot on this year's 49ers roster. But he's drawn praise for his performance during practice over the past month and seems to be trending upward as the season approaches, saying he's improved in a number of ways since his rookie year.

"I think my knowledge of the game, knowing more, knowing my assignment better, and knowing where my help is," Lenoir said.

Helping Lenoir along the way were some veteran teammates in fellow cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, as well as now-former 49ers cornerback K'Waun Williams. In addition to some extensive offseason work and film study, Lenoir asked those players about any adjustments they made after going through their rookie season.

"Just reaching out to K'Waun Williams, Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley and just picking their brain and see how they made that step from their rookie year to their second year," Lenoir said.

It remains to be seen exactly where Lenoir fits in this season for the 49ers, but it seems likely at this point like he'll at least have a roster spot and will able to contribute as a reserve from there. The 49ers have been giving Lenoir more work at nickel back this summer, which is a spot he's finding a preference for after playing mostly at corner previously.

"I would actually say it's more fun because you get to blitz, get in the run game, get your nose dirty," Lenoir said. "That's kind of my style."


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