SANTA CLARA — Once Drake Jackson showed up at his new job Friday, he wandered through one of the rarest of office parks and became spellbound.
His role: defensive end for the 49ers, who held their first practice of rookie minicamp Friday.
His home office: Levi’s Stadium.
“I was just walking through the halls and had to call my dad,” Jackson said. “This is crazy. Just to be standing right here, in San Fran, I can’t really explain it.”
In short, he’s here to rush the passer and complement a sturdy front line, thus meriting the 49ers’ top selection in the draft two weeks ago (second round, No. 61 overall).
“It’s a beautiful, blessed feeling, man,” Jackson added. “Twenty-one years of life, doing everything I did, just for this. It’s crazy. Each and every minute, every second, it’s ‘Who would have thought?’ ”
On draft day, among those welcoming him to the team was fellow defensive end Nick Bosa, who is coming off his third season and a career-high 15 1/2 sacks.
Jackson, in an ideal capacity, would serve as the 49ers’ speed-rushing complement on the other side of the line from Bosa, similar to how Dee Ford was at his peak in 2019.
“Every play, it’s a hunt. I just want to be part of that pack, to go hunt with my boys,” said Jackson, who’ll wear No. 95 after suiting up at USC as No. 99, a number tattooed onto his left forearm.
Jackson’s genuine gratitude is an ideal trait for a rookie minicamp. Here are nine things we learned from other rookies the past days:
San Francisco 49ers running-back Tyrion Davis-Prince (32) runs with the ball during an NFL rookie mini-camp at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, May 13, 2022. (Photo by Josie Lepe)
Running back Ty Davis-Price (third round) said right away he’s here to help the 49ers win a Super Bowl. Championship expectations? Dang right. After all, he won college football’s national championship at LSU in 2019 as a freshman backup.
“I’ve been a champion all levels of my life, and in high school,” said Davis-Price, who attended Southern Lab High in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “That’s what I expect so I’m excited to come be a part of that.”
Davis-Price added that he won track titles in high school, too, clocking a 100-meter dash in 10.6 seconds while over 230 pounds. He plans to play at 220 to 222 pounds as a 49ers rookie, and his style reflects how the 49ers will take on more of a power-running persona.
“I just love contact. Defenders, they don’t want that,” Davis-Price said.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Danny Gray (86) runs drills during an NFL rookie mini-camp at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, May 13, 2022. (Photo by Josie Lepe)
GRAY’S BUSY DAY
Wide receiver Danny Gray caught four passes in team drills during Friday’s minicamp practice — after an earlier drop — and it’s not just his 4.33 speed that is obvious. He’s muscular-defined legs come with a smooth stride, even when racing back to the huddle. He did so with a white towel dangling from his left hip that brought back memories of Jerry Rice’s “Flash 80” days.
Asked if he’s ready to catch passes from strong-armed Trey Lance, Gray referenced how well he fared in a March workout in Dallas with Colin Kaepernick, stating: “He kind of has like a bazooka, too. That workout was pretty great so I think I’m up for the task. … My impression of working out with a Super Bowl quarterback, a great quarterback at that, it was a surreal moment for me, really. He was a great dude. He’s a legend in my book.”
Gray said he won’t shy away from physical contact, noting: “No block, no rock.” True, and if there’s no rock (ball) coming his way, he still better block.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
If this offensive line business doesn’t work out for sixth-round pick Nick Zakelj — he certainly looks promising at 6-foot-6, 316 pounds — then his Fordham education prepared him for his backup plan. He’d like to work in data analytics in football or baseball. That field attracted him as a sophomore year in college, noting: “You’d always surf like BaseballReference.com. The coolest thing ever was looking at Barry Bonds’ Baseball Reference page, my favorite site in general, and just looking at that 2004 page. It’s so crazy.”
OK, it was weird, maybe even wrong, to see Joe Staley’s former No. 74 on a rookie. Then again, these numbers aren’t permanent. Offensive lineman Spencer Burford, a fourth-round draft pick, is who donned Staley’s old digits. Staley certainly would appreciate Burford’s outlook on life.
“I’m a nobody but I’m a somebody at the same time,” said Burford, who stayed home for college to help bolster Texas-San Antionio’s program. “I’m not bigger than anybody that’s in this room. I’m a genuine person. I like genuine love, too.
“I feel like being the best version of yourself is being genuine. You don’t have to treat people ugly now that you’re on a different platform. I have to carry myself a certain way. But I don’t have to belittle somebody at the same time.”
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (14) throws the ball during an NFL rookie mini-camp at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, May 13, 2022. (Photo by Josie Lepe)
NEW QB ON BLOCK
Brock Purdy put a nice zip on the ball with accuracy, including a few of those passes that Gray caught in traffic.
“I’ve met Trey Lance and Nate Sudfeld, and they’ve just been welcoming me with open arms and they’ve been great guys, so far,” said Purdy, who hadn’t yet met incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo. “I’m excited to get in the room and learn from them and compete.”
Purdy was the 262nd and final pick of the draft, meaning he’ll serve as this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant” events in Newport Beach. He’s awaiting further details on the “four-day process of having fun.”
UCF defensive tackle Kalia Davis meets with the media Friday following pro day inside the Nicholson Fieldhouse. (Jason Beede, Jason Beede)
Defensive tackle Kalia Davis worked on the side during practice, and that’s likely what he’ll do his rookie season as he recovers from last fall’s anterior cruciate ligament tear. Upon drafting him in the sixth round, general manager John Lynch compared him to D.J. Jones, who left for a $30 million pact with the Broncos.
“That’s a great compliment,” Davis said in response. “I feel good after him saying that. But I’m not trying to mold myself after him. I’m trying to enter this game and pave my own way. But when a legend like John Lynch is saying something like that and DJ got $30 million, it kind of makes me feel good.”
Jason Poe, an undrafted offensive lineman out of Mercer, packs a lot of versatility in his 300-pound frame. He’ll initially start out as an interior offensive lineman, and while he’s got the range and hands as a community-college fullback, he might even look OK as a defensive tackle, though the 49ers haven’t indicated that.
“I just like the physicality, hitting people over and over, making them stop,” Poe said of his fullback days.
The 49ers don’t exactly have holes in their starting lineup for any rookies to fill, much less undrafted ones, and even more of a longshot are those who auditioned Friday. That said, nice tryouts were turned in by wide receivers Keke Chism and Taysir Mack, cornerback Shahman Moore and running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio, the latter of whom was at the local pro day.
Lance watched from afar toward the end of the rookies’ Friday practice; they have another Saturday. … Observing on the sideline was former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who coached the Denver Broncos the past three years. Fangio lives in Florida and may occasionally drop in to watch practice while in town here, he said. … Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan stood next to each other to watch the majority of practice.
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