SANTA CLARA — After making the play to seal the 49ers' win in Cincinnati, a smiling, joking Brandon Aiyuk stood at the podium in front of the media.
It was a departure from the soft spoken, serious persona that the young receiver has displayed since arriving in Santa Clara. Aiyuk joked that he had gone against standards set by the coaching staff in his dive into the end zone on his walk-off touchdown.
“I felt as I was running the guy didn’t have a good angle and was behind me,” Aiyuk said after the game. “We’re not really supposed to reach for the pylon unless it’s fourth down, but nobody said anything when I scored.”
The media room burst out in laughter and an ear-to-ear smile spread across Aiyuk’s face.
On Thursday, 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel shared how he has seen Aiyuk become more comfortable within the offense, and as a result is letting his personality show just a little bit more.
“I think it's awesome,” McDaniel said. “We've kind of experienced that as a team or coaches and players where when the more you get to know Brandon and the closer and more comfortable he feels with you, there's a lot of layers of humor.
“When I read that after the game, I was dying laughing and you guys are starting to see his personality come out a little bit. He's got those layers to him that are pretty cool.”
Since the bye week and a heart-to-heart with Kyle Shanahan, Aiyuk’s productivity has increased 10-fold. The Arizona State product has refocused on the field making him a reliable target for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Prior to the bye week, Aiyuk had only registered eight receptions for 90 yards and one touchdown. Since Week 7, the second-year wideout has caught 32 of his 49 targets for 459 yards and three touchdowns.
“He made an unbelievable play,” McDaniels said. “I don't think anybody on our staff, we are all kind of preparing for second-and-goal from the four in our minds. And that's in those split seconds and to see him make that play. I'm not going to be the guy that says, ‘No, don't do that.' ”
No one is off limits from George Kittle’s sarcasm and wit. The All-Pro tight end shared that Aiyuk does have fun with his teammates away from the media in the locker room.
“He's continually getting better, but he’s still pretty quiet,” Kittle said. “A lot of times he doesn’t like to talk to people but he definitely engages with everyone in the locker room, it’s fun.
"It’s kind of back and forth, it’s always fun for us.”