SANTA CLARA -- 49ers left tackle Justin Skule, who will take over for injured six-time Pro Bowler Joe Staley at the position in Sunday’s home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, is just a rookie. But Skule already has a huge supporting cast to help him prepare.
The 22-year-old is an unknown to most in the Niners fanbase. The rookie has quietly kept his head down since he was selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the 49ers in April. Staley, who has vowed to help Skule adjust to his new responsibilities, has already made an impact on his replacement.
“He’s been awesome since I’ve been here just taking me under his wing and giving me little tricks of the trade,” Skule said Wednesday of the veteran left tackle, who is out six to eight weeks after breaking his fibula in Week 2. “He’s done a phenomenal job just these past couple days giving me pointers just showing me how he goes through his process and everything like that. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor.”
Staley isn’t the only offensive lineman to offer Skule helpful advice. The rookie had to fill in for Staley in the 49ers' 41-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and Skule said Mike Person imparted some wisdom when the two shared the field at Paul Brown Stadium.
“He’s like, ‘Take a deep breath it’s still just football,'" Skule recalled. "So, I think that’s something that I’m really going to focus on this week. It’s still the game of football. Just take a deep breath, and don’t let anything get too big for myself.”
Skule apparently has taken that advice to heart during his first week of practice as the team's starter.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t notice the nerves that were brewing in his newly appointed left tackle. Garoppolo that Skule appeared unfazed when he first filled in for Staley and has been the same ever since.
“He’s been very consistent,” Garoppolo said. “Smart guy, came into the huddle during the game, didn’t blink or anything. Just one of those guys, he does the right thing and he’s in the right spot. He’s been the same guy every day, and you’ve got to appreciate that.”
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Thus far, Skule has taken it all in stride. Even with more than 20 media members surrounding him in front of his locker for the first time in his pro career, Skule seemed calm and deliberate. The rookie didn’t hesitate when answering any questions, and his replies seemed genuine.
Still, Skule knows that even though he feels calm now, the nerves undoubtedly will come before his first start Sunday at Levi's Stadium.
“No matter who you are replacing, you’re going to go in with some nerves,” Skule said. “Everyone has that competitive edge where you’re going to be nervous when you’re going in. The older guys and everyone in the huddle have just done a great job taking me under their wing and just making sure I’m good and relaxed and ready to go.”