Position: Running back
Selection: Fourth round, No. 121 overall
SANTA CLARA – The 49ers traded up in the fourth round to select Utah running back Joe Williams.
The 49ers traded up to No. 121 overall in general manager John Lynch’s sixth trade of the draft. Just minutes earlier, the 49ers acquired Kapri Bibbs in a trade with the Denver Broncos.
The 49ers traded up in the fourth round with Indianapolis to select Williams. The 49ers dealt No. 143 in the fourth round and No. 161 of the fifth round to the Colts to complete the trade.
Williams, who ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, rushed for 1,407 yards and 10 touchdowns on 210 rushing attempts in nine games. He also caught nine passes for 107 yards.
Williams walked away from the team two weeks into last season but was welcomed back. He was welcomed back to the team and rushed for 332 yards against UCLA.
Former 49ers head coach Dennis Erickson, who was Utah’s running backs coach, later explained Williams’ brief “retirement.”
"I knew he was down a little bit at the beginning of the year," Erickson said. "He fumbled a couple of times. Mentally, he was drained a little bit. Physically, he was not feeling very good."
Williams had 278 all-purpose yards to be named MVP of the Foster Farms Bowl against Indiana at Levi’s Stadium.
On a conferene call with Bay Area reporters, Williams explained his personal struggle of the past 10 years that led to him stepping away from the game:
"I had to lay it out on the line (to teams) that football is what I drink and breathe. It's what I wake up for in the morning and it's how I want to provide for my family. They knew at first they wanted to understand how I could walk away from football, but after I tell them how it came to be, I felt they were empathetic about it and they understand that sometimes you have to put things on hold to do what's right.
"My sister (Kylee, 7 years old) had passed away in 2006. She died in my hands. She died on Sunday, June 19th. She'd been in and out of the hospital that Friday and Saturday. She had fell unconscious and . . . just the guilt and shame I always put upon myself because I didn't act quickly enough with my parents or call 911, I thought it was my fault. Going through high school and college, I was getting counseling.
"Coming into this season, a lot of the emotions were coming to the forefront, and I was trying to deal them the best way I could. As the season started, and I knew my mental health wasn't where it needed to be, I knew the best option for me was to sit down in front of my wife and my coaches and just tell them where I was at. It came to the decision that stepping back at that time would be for my best interest -- not only for football but for life after football.
"I did a lot of soul-searching. I got my sister's tattoo on my left arm. I was doing everything necessary to finally come to peace with her death. . . I finally forgave myself."