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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan praises unsung hero Kyle Juszczyk’s impact on the 49ers

Jan 18, 2024 at 3:18 PM--

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Kyle Juszczyk has been with the San Francisco 49ers as long as head coach Kyle Shanahan. The fullback was among Shanahan and general manager John Lynch's first free-agent class and is the last remaining player from that 2017 class.

Shanahan knew early on that he wanted to use a fullback in his offense, even as other NFL teams moved away from utilizing the position. So, the coach ensured Lynch and company went after the best one in the NFL.

Fullbacks earn less praise than other star offensive players because a wealth of statistics doesn't typically accompany the position. However, the coach deeply appreciates what Juszczyk has done over the years and what the veteran player continues to mean to the 49ers.

"Kyle is such a good football player, and I think he's better at fullback now than when he got here," Shanahan told reporters on Thursday. "And I think when he got here, he was the best fullback in the league. He's changed his body at times. He's always looking to adjust each offseason. As he gets older, he still comes back, ready to go."

The 49ers have more playmakers on offense than when Juszczyk first arrived. The fullback was part of a rebuild of one of the worst rosters in the league and has watched the team steadily evolve into one of the best in the NFL.

Now, the 49ers have weapons like Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk to accompany early arrivals like Juszczyk and George Kittle.

"He's always been able to make plays," Shanahan continued. "We gave him a lot more opportunities back in the day, and not because he was younger, because I know he can make those same plays. We just have more guys. And Kyle's a cool dude because he understands the guys, and he understands some of the weapons we have."

While Juszczyk would love to be more involved in the offense, see more carries, and catch more passes, the fullback is an unselfish player. Shanahan notes that when the ball does come Juszczyk's way, he always delivers.

"And if you're like that as an athlete, you definitely want more," Shanahan said. "And I know how bad he does. He's a guy who doesn't shy away from anything, who truly believes he can win the game for us at any moment. And when you truly believe that, and when you've proven it, it's really tough not to get those ops.

"So I get how that wears on him, and I love that he will come and talk to me about it every once in a while, but the cool thing about Kyle is, when I'm honest with him and I tell the reasons, he doesn't disagree. He understands some of the people that are around here that do get the ball a little bit more, and then it's easy because he's a smart guy who'll do anything to help us win. And when you say something that makes sense, that helps us win, then it's good."

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