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5th-7th round picks discuss being drafted by the 49ers

Apr 29, 2023 at 10:01 PM--

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Five of the San Francisco 49ers' six selections from day three of the 2023 NFL Draft spoke with reporters after each pick was made. Here is everything they had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

CB Darrell Luter Jr.

Just wondering what your pre-draft interaction was with the 49ers, whether you paid a visit, had a workout or anything like that?

"I had a Zoom call to start off with them. It was my second Zoom call after my pro day. After that Zoom call, I had a 30 visit which was last week with them. Everything went well."

What has your interaction been with defensive coordinator Steve Wilks? He's kind of a defensive backs and safety specialist.

"I heard so much about him because I went to dinner with one of the DB coaches there, so they always told me what he's big on, what his rules are, and so when I got to meet him, the vibe was there. I connected with him instantly. He loved everything that I was talking about. We were watching film and we connected very well. I feel like I had a real good vibe with him and we both ended it off well."

I've noticed from some highlight tapes that you seem like a particularly physical player. Do you enjoy playing a little bit closer to the box and line of scrimmage? I know you have versatility between slot corner and outside, but is there something that you really like about being able to show that physicality closer to the box?

"Oh yeah. Being close up and in press, it allows me to put my hands on early. It allows me to be able to rough those receivers up and get them into their routes sooner than they would want to. That's something that I've done since I was little. I've been doing that coverage, especially press, my whole football career."

Aside from that physicality, how would you describe your skills as a corner?

"I feel like they are on top of the roof. I got the strength, I got the physicality, they say I got the mental part of the game. Especially coming into the NFL, that's something that I take pride in. I always talk about, once I get drafted I'm getting into the playbook as soon as I get there. I'm connecting with a veteran because I want to get that stuff already taken care of. I want to be able to make people feel like I am a veteran, that way I'm comfortable. When I get out on the field, I want coaches to know that they can trust me on that field, so that's what I'm bringing. I'm bringing the physicality part and I'm bringing the mental part to the game."

Do you consider yourself an outside corner or a nickel? Do you expect to cross train when you get here? What have they told you initially about how they see you fitting in to the 49ers defensive back field?

"Honestly, I'm very versatile. I play both nickel and outside corner. I can play both. Of course, a majority of my career I have played outside, but I've also been reintroduced a couple of times back at nickel since high school, so I can play both positions. It doesn't matter which one, as long as I'm able to help out the team in any way."

I read that you were a no star recruit. If that's accurate, what did colleges miss about you and were you surprised coming out of high school that there wasn't more interest?

"So, there's a story behind all that but we'll get into that later on down the road, but I feel like a lot of teams missed out on the skillset that I have, the abilities that I have that I've been given. I also feel like they missed out on the stuff that I bring to the game. Again, like I always tell you, the mental and the physical part, I feel like they missed out on those things and so, as you see later down the line from high school to Pearl [River Community College], from Pearl to South [Alabama] you see nothing but progression, and people just look back like, 'Wow, why haven't we recruited that guy or even take that guy in?' It's all good though."

We can see that sign waving behind you. Can you describe where you are and who's with you?

"Boom! This is actually a sign that my mother-in-law made. This was around graduation time and you see up close this is the picture when I was in the locker room. Today, we've got a couple veterans out. I have my aunties and my uncles. I have my cousins. I have my wife, my daughter. I have my nephew. Pretty much got a good amount of family here to support me. So, I mean this is an excellent day."

Being a husband and a girl dad, how does that affect how you've prepared your life for this NFL career?

"Man, it's unexplainable. I'm not going to lie to you. Since the day I knew I was projected to get drafted, to the day I got married, to the day I got a kid, everything's just been building on top of each other. It continues to motivate me. It adds onto the stuff I was already motivated from in the past, so it just keeps building up. It's very unexplainable, man."

I was just wondering if you knew S Tarvarius Moore who also went to Pearl River? He used to play for the San Francisco 49ers and is now with the Green Bay Packers.

"I honestly don't. I've heard a lot about him, but I honestly never got a chance to meet him. I look forward and hope I get a chance to meet him one day."

DL Robert Beal Jr.

What was your first reaction when you found out the 49ers were drafting you, and what are you expecting when you come here?

"It was a breath of fresh air. With the anticipation of the draft, waiting for your name to get called, I've been just waiting for that to happen and it finally happened. It is a breath of fresh air. I'm just ready to get to work."

How familiar are you with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and what he's able to do with defensive lineman? How excited are you to work with him?

"I'm really excited to work with him. I really don't know too much about what he does, but I know we have [DL] Nick Bosa and he's a dog. I'm ready to learn everything that I can and take my game to the next level."

You mentioned Nick Bosa, when you look at that defensive line and the talent there, just how excited are you to work with them and learn from them?

"I'm excited, it's crazy. The 49ers were my favorite team growing up as a kid. It is like a dream come true being able to reunite and come play for you guys."

What kind of interaction did you have with the 49ers? Did you have a visit and did you meet with Kocurek and assistant defensive line coach Darryl Tapp and those guys?

"I spoke with the 49ers at the Shrine Game and I had an informal meeting with them at the combine. All of that went pretty well for me."

Can you explain your history as a 49ers fan?

"Growing up, it was between the 49ers and the Falcons but it was 49ers before the Falcons. It is crazy how it comes full circle. I'm just thankful for the opportunity."

How would you describe your pass rush and moves? Is it speed, power? What are you going to be known for at this level?

"I feel like my primary moves are anything off of a long arm. Long arm bull rush, speed rush. I can also switch it up, so it is things like that that really take my game to the next level."

You guys have quite the defensive line at Georgia. I'm wondering, did you watch Georgia as a position group much, San Francisco 49ers Nick Bosa, much of the 49ers kind of as an example of what to strive to kind of at that next level?

"Yes sir. We'll always watch the top pass rushers and Nick Bosa was always one of them. So, there'd be pass rush clips from week-to-week we'll watch sack tape, strip sack tape, stuff like that."

Your speed is fairly unique for your position. Did you grow up playing other positions? I mean, were you ever a running back or anything like that?

"I played tight end in middle school, but that didn't work out too well. So, it's just, I didn't really have that before."

I'm just curious, who are the guys on the 49ers that you followed when you were a kid? I mean, who are your favorites on those teams?

"I forgot his name. What's his name, defensive end. [Former San Francisco 49ers DL] Aldon Smith, yeah, that was the guy. I used to watch him day in and day out."

Aldon has long arms, so I'm guessing he was going to ask about how you use your arms?

"Okay, yeah I really just use my length to an advantage. With long arms I really can't fit into a shirt comfortably. It's either much long, like my arms stick out the bottom of the shirt, or the shirt will be too big. So, it's like, man, you know it's kind of crazy coming up but working out for good now."

You were at Georgia for six years. Did you get pretty antsy to get out of there, but at least you got two National Championships on the way out?

"Yeah, I did. I think that last year I kind of was like antsy to see what the next phase of life was going to be like. So, which is all you know, taking it in and realizing what the real world's going to be like when I leave Georgia, because in college you're kind of in a bubble. So, I'm ready to get out of that bubble and experience the real world."

Speaking about that, have you been to California much? What do you expecting as you make the big move to the West Coast?

"I haven't really been there much. I went there one time when I was at the IMG Academy and then one time for the Championship. So, I haven't really seen much of California."

LB Dee Winters

The 49ers have two pretty prominent linebackers in LB Fred Warner and LB Dre Greenlaw, how familiar are you with them and the 49ers scheme?

"I've been watching Fred Warner for about two years now, ever since I transitioned from safety to linebacker. I just found somebody I feel like my game kind of models. I think Fred Warner is probably one of the top linebackers in the league and that's definitely somebody I look up to. I'm definitely excited to get to work with him and kind of follow in his footsteps. I've been a little familiar with the scheme. I met with San Francisco quite a bit throughout this process. Like I said, I'm excited to get to work with [linebackers coach] Johnny Holland and those guys."

Can you take us through these last four years at TCU and how you progressed to get to become an NFL linebacker?

"Yeah, I think it is just about dialing in on one aspect of your game. I've just been trying to perfect one thing at a time, not necessarily everything at once. My freshman year was just trying to get a feel for linebacker. I hadn't really played defense at all. I was just trying to find a role and I think coach [TCU DC Joe] Gillespie did a great job transitioning me and my position, and seeing what my best possibility was to get into the league. I'm definitely grateful for that. I feel like every year I focused on tackling, then instincts. Next year, my junior year, I was focusing on the quarterback's third down progression. Who is his favorite receiver, and stuff like that. So, I think it was the little details, not necessarily just focusing on me but the opponent as well."

You mentioned Johnny Holland. He's one of the longest tenured coaches here with the 49ers. What was your conversation like with him and how much do you know about how he is as a coach and as a former player?

"Yeah, so it's kind of crazy. He's actually from Hempstead, TX, which is about 20 minutes from where I'm from, Brenham, TX. So, kind of got a conversation started there to open up and have a little ice breaker there, but I think Coach Holland is a great guy. He's definitely going to be himself, and I think he just is a great coach and he's going to put you in the best position to make plays, and that's what you want as a player."

You said you had a lot of contact with the San Francisco 49ers. How far back did it go and how many times did you talk to them?

"My first time talking to them was at The Senior Ball when we did the little 32 visits at each podium, and after that it kind of transitioned to right before The Combine and it just stayed consistent. I think that was one of the biggest things I felt during that process and I'm definitely glad that I'm in San Francisco right now, and definitely excited to get to work."

I know speed is one of your calling cards, maybe your biggest calling card, a lot of your highlight tape run blitzes, pass blitzes, you're getting to the quarterback quickly. How excited do you get when a coach, a defensive coordinator, does dial up a blitz for you?

"I think it just opens up the playmaker in me and it allows me to just go make plays. I think, you have one task at hand and that's to go get whoever has the ball. So, any time a coach puts you in that position, it's kind of exciting. I think that's one of the biggest strengths that I have is just going to make plays and being a dynamic blitzer."

TE Brayden Willis

How do you feel about the culture fit in terms of what you do and what you like to do and how the 49ers run their offense?

"First and foremost, I like winning so obviously the Niners do a lot of winning and I love doing that. Also, the system fits me really well. I think I can learn a lot from [TE] George Kittle. I think I can do a lot in terms of versatility in the offense and just the way that they use their tight end in the run game and pass game, I just think I can do a lot. I think that it's a great fit for me. I think it's the best fit for me and I'm excited to get in and go to work."

What was your pre-draft contact like with San Francisco?

"The Niners showed their hand the whole time. I think they showed their hand out of most people and I fully expected to hear something from them and I did. I'm just excited to be here, excited to go to work and hopefully I can have a long, great career here."

You're not only known as a tight end, but you've done halfback work, fullback work. Where do you think your strengths are and how does that fit into the 49ers offense?

"I think mostly, I'm a tight end. I've done a lot of tight end work and that's what I'm accustomed to, I'm used to. Obviously, I can play a lot of different positions and I'm going to do anything that the coaching staff asks of me, but I'm coming in as a tight end. I want to make a mark as that. I'll do anything the coaching staff asks of me to do and I'm excited to get to work."

It was mentioned that you would line up on occasion at fullback. Is that accurate and how did that come to be?

"I really haven't played any fullback unless you count me being in the wing as a fullback in Oklahoma. I've been in the wing, I've been in the snip for a little bit just for specific run plays. Like I said, I can do it. I'm a football player, so it's not hard to pick up. I can do it, I'm good at it and I'll do whatever they want me to do. It just kind of came by me being versatile. I can do a lot of different things that football players can and that's kind of how it came about. I'm excited to be able to do a whole bunch of different things and be a chess piece they can use. I'm excited."

How does a college tight end views George Kittle, with the whole persona and his ability on and off the field?

"At Oklahoma in general, we watched a lot of George Kittle. He just does so many great things. He does so many things that we do as an offense, like the same schemes that we do in terms of gap, zone, outside zone, inside zone, counters, all types of stuff. We watched a lot of his film. He's a willing blocker, great pass catcher, a great athlete, a guy that can do it all. We view him as a chess piece, a guy that can move around, a guy that can do a lot of things and make the other team pay and that's how I view myself as well. I'm excited to get to learn from him. He's one of the best in the business, obviously, and I can't think of a greater mentor for me and my play style than George Kittle."

George Kittle gets this maniacal joy from blocking, from moving a man from point A to point B. On tape, you're a really good blocker as well. How would you characterize your passion for that physical part of the game?

"I really think you just said it. Moving another man from point A to point B without him wanting to be moved, I think that's the best feeling in the world. It's just as good as scoring a touchdown. When you're able to move someone against their will, it's the best feeling. The joy he gets from it, that's the same joy I get from it. It's the violent nature of the game and I think if you're a fan of the violent nature of the game, the physicality and everything, I think you get a joy out of that too. Like I said, I think we're both fans of the violent, physical nature of the game and that's why we love to do stuff like that."

Looking at your stat line, your seven touchdowns jump out. I was just wondering whether there's a theme with those seven touchdowns? What were those seven touchdowns like?

"A lot of the touchdowns came from the red zone, but more in passing situations. There were some situations where you're expecting a run and we did something with a little pop pass or something like that. There was one of those, but it was just a lot of match up things. You get an ability to be in a match up situation where you have a guy that you like in a match up and the coaches liked me in a lot of these match ups throughout the year, so I was able to capitalize on that. Shout out to my coaching staff at Oklahoma, they put me in great positions, allowed me to be myself, be the best football player that I could be and allowed me to capitalize on that. I think that's more so what it was."

You averaged 7.2 yards after catch. How excited are you to go to the 49ers and be with George Kittle, WR Deebo Samuel, RB Christian McCaffrey, WR Brandon Aiyuk who are known for their YAC?

"As my career has gone on in Oklahoma, I learned to do the yards after catch thing. Each practice, we did it. Caught the ball in practice and practiced my moves after the catch and everything. I'm excited to learn from all those guys because they're great in YAC. I'm excited to learn from all those guys, pick up some tips and tricks they have that made them so successful in college and in the league and just make me a better player. That's the biggest thing. I want to learn, I want to be a better player and I want to be able to contribute on a bigger scale. That's the biggest thing I'm excited for."

WR Ronnie Bell

What was your pre-draft process like with San Francisco and what excites you about being a part of this offense?

"Thank you, and honestly pre-draft-wise, like I know I spoke with the 49ers at my Pro Day and throughout the Combine and Senior Bowl I had spoken to them a little bit too then as well. I'm just excited to be a part of the offense, and definitely as far as where my role is, and where I'll contribute at, I'm not 100% sure. We'll see. I know they said we report the 11th [May 11, 2023], so once I'm in the building, once I'm around the guys and pieces start to fall into place I'll have that answer, but definitely just ready to work and just really excited."

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan is notoriously known for being very hard on his wide receivers, asking a lot from them, and is offense is very elaborate. How are you prepared to take on that challenge and what are you like when your coaches ask more from you?

"I feel like my whole life I've always had tough coaching, hard coaching on me, so that's something honestly I'm excited about and something I feel like I'm most used to. Yeah, as far as the offense and everything, I'm just again, just once I get my hands on a playbook and start to put things together, I'm just really excited for that whole process."

I have a question about your Michigan teammate K Jake Moody, because obviously the Niners drafted him last night. Can you describe just the mindset and moxie he kind of showed you guys over the years?

"Yes, thank you and Jake, he's always been one about his business. He's one that you know what you're going to get, and you expect such high things out of him, and he always delivers throughout his whole career. We got there in Michigan the same summer, and throughout his whole career he was always very quiet, very about his business, but he always put in the work, and was always knocking down the field goals, knocking down the big ones and it was just a lot of fun to play with him and I'm excited to do that again."

The 49ers scouting department said that he's a guy that just has ice in his veins, would you concur with that assessment?

"Yes, without a doubt I think that is the exact way to describe Moody."

Can you just talk about what last year proved to you in terms of getting back from the ACL and just how you're feeling with your health, and whether that could translate to doing return duties if need be?

"Well, yeah I definitely want to be a part of return game, but as far as my knee, I've done nothing but feel stronger as the time has gone by. Last year has just showed me throughout the time, I am still getting stronger, even though I felt 100% in the beginning, throughout the season I started to feel even better than I did in the beginning. So, I just feel like I'm just going to continue to get stronger with time."


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