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5 things to know about new 49ers DT Javon Hargrave

Mar 13, 2023 at 12:54 PM

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The San Francisco 49ers made a major free agency splash on Monday, agreeing to terms on a reported four-year, $84 million contract with Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave.

The 30-year-old Hargrave is coming off one of his finest NFL seasons, having posted 60 tackles and a career-high 11 sacks for the Eagles in 2022. Hargrave posted a career-high 63 tackles and 7.5 sacks for the Eagles in 2021, an effort that earned him his first selection to the Pro Bowl.

On his NFL career, Hargrave (6-2, 305) has 329 total tackles, 37.5 sacks, 64 quarterback hits, and 46 tackles for loss. Hargrave has also proven to be durable throughout his time in the NFL, having played in at least 15 games in all seven of his NFL seasons. Hargrave was projected to be the top defensive player available in free agency before agreeing to terms with the 49ers on Monday.

What should 49ers fans know about their team's newest standout defensive lineman? Let's start with his nickname, which he's certainly earned with his performance on the football field.

One of the best nicknames... ever

Hargrave's nickname since his college days at South Carolina State has been "Gravedigger," which was given to him by his former defensive coordinator Mike Adams. The nickname came about after Hargrave made his first collegiate sack, and it's been with him ever since.

"When I first got to (South Carolina State), my friends called me Grave because of my last name," Hargrave told ESPN in 2016. "In my first year, on my first sack, I smacked the quarterback. I knocked him back a few yards. When I got back to the sideline, my defensive coordinator called me Gravedigger. It was pretty dope to me. It stuck."

Hargrave also uses the nickname on his Instagram account, which is @grave_digger97. Hargrave wore 97 in Philadelphia but will have to wear a different number with the 49ers, but with Nick Bosa currently in ownership of that number, Hargrave will have to make a switch.

See the "Gravedigger" in action below:

A D-Lineman to the core

Hargrave has a long-time love affair with football, due mostly to his discovery of the defensive line at a young age. Hargrave told the Eagles Insider podcast in 2020 that he fell in love with the game in fourth grade because that's when he first put his hand in the dirt on the defensive line.

"I played D-Line basically my whole life," Hargrave said. "I played running back and stuff like that, but for me, in fourth grade, I felt like defensive line was just so easy for me. I don't know, it just came real natural. Every other position I was kind of okay at, but playing defensive line at a young age, it just made me really love football. It brought me a long way for my career."

Hargrave was a nose tackle in the 3-4 defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers early in his NFL days after being selected in Round 3 of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he found the move to the Eagles to be more to his liking in terms of how he wanted to play.

"At the end of the day, it's just football for me," Hargrave told the Eagles Insider podcast. "A lot of people call me a nose, but honestly, I always knew I was a D-Tackle because that's all I did in college... That's what Pittsburgh wanted me to do. It took me a while to just adjust to that, but I think a scheme like this is more for like, a D-Lineman's dream, to be able to play for something like this where they kind of let you get off and go make plays. So for me, just transforming to 3-4 to a 4-3, I'm really excited."

Two-sport star

Hargrave excelled in basketball as well as football while growing up. According to the Salisbury (N.C.) Post, Hargrave averaged 10.5 points as a senior for North Rowan High School in North Carolina while helping his team to a Class 1A state championship.

"I always tell people I'm a poor man's Zion Williamson," Hargrave told the Eagles Insider podcast. "I ain't jumping like Zion, but that's basically how my game was -- more undersized in the post, bullying people, just playing bully ball with everybody, being stronger. Maybe not the tallest, taller than everybody, but it was more like a Zion/Zach Randolph type of game. Just bully ball with everybody."

His basketball skills eventually helped him make his way to the NFL as a defensive tackle.

"I think that's where I got my footwork from," Hargrave said.

Always a hard worker

Hargrave had one particularly scary moment during his football career, when an academic issue as a high school senior left him with limited options in terms of college.

"I was really down," Hargrave told The Athletic in 2021. "It was one of my low points. I didn't know if I was going to be able to play football. … That's when I gained all my weight. I was 260 in high school, (then grew to) 290-300. I sat in the house and ate. I didn't come outside, wasn't working out anymore."

Fortunately, Hargrave's academic problems proved to be just a minor setback in what would become a great college career. Hargrave eventually wound up at South Carolina State, where after working his way back into shape he went on to total 37 sacks, 63 tackles for loss, 210 tackles, eight forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 45 games. Hargrave was a two-time first-team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference performer, a two-time All-American, a conference player of the year, and totaled six sacks in a 2014 game against Bethune-Cookman.

"Since he was a child, we always wrote down his goals before every football season," Hargrave's uncle Kenneth Bates told WSOC-TV earlier this year. "We would sit there, we would check off 'did you accomplish these goals?'"

Hargrave's father Timothy Bates said, "Javon, whatever that one thing was, he was always willing to do that one more thing."

Impressive physical ability

Hargrave ran a 4.93 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2016 while posting a vertical jump of 34.5 inches, a broad jump of 109 inches, and 29 bench press reps of 225 pounds.

According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, Hargrave squatted 700 pounds in college and would have been able to do more if his college coaches allowed him to.

"He's one of the strongest people I've ever seen in the weight room," Hargrave's former teammate and friend, Jalen 'Scoot' Simmons told NBC Sports.

Hargrave's signing will become official when the NFL's 2023 league year begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 15.
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