George Kittle has become one of the best tight ends in the NFL over the past two seasons.
As the 49ers star was busy breaking records in 2018, many people probably found themselves wondering: Where the hell did this guy come from?
Kittle wasn't a household name coming out of Iowa. During his time in Iowa City, Kittle caught 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hardly numbers that scream future NFL star.
Part of Kittle's lack of production can be chalked up to head coach Kirk Ferentz's conservative offense, but Kittle has a different person to pin his ho-hum numbers on.
"I was hurt my senior year, so that’s not on him," Kittle told The Mercury News' Dieter Kurtenbach about Ferentz. "Blame CJ. That’s actually his fault."
C.J., of course, refers to quarterback C.J. Beathard who led Iowa to a 12-0 season in 2015, and now is a backup quarterback for the 49ers.
Sorry, C.J., should have fed George the rock.
Despite the pedestrian stats, Kittle always had faith he could make it in the NFL.
"I honestly never had a doubt that I’d make the NFL," Kittle said. "That’s something that I told myself every day: What you’re doing is for the dream you’re trying to achieve. It really came to light my junior year — my redshirt junior year — I had a really good spring ball, there was an opening at tight end and I just kind of filled in, had a really good camp and just made plays when my name was called. That’s all you can really hope for — to get the opportunity to make the play. Junior year, going into senior year — starting — it just kind of took off from there."
The 49ers drafted Kittle in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and no doubt are thrilled Beathard and Jimmy Garoppolo have been throwing him the ball a lot more than in his time with the Hawkeyes.
As the 2019 season approaches, Kittle and the 49ers are looking to take the next step toward playoff contention.
A healthy Jimmy G feeding Kittle the rock, along with some game-day anarchy, just might be the perfect mix for a return to relevance for the red and gold.