Emmanuel Sanders' impact on Deebo, 49ers still being felt

Sanders and Deebo

SANTA CLARA — Emmanuel Sanders hasn’t played a snap for the 49ers in over 650 days but his influence still is evident with the team’s top players - most notably Deebo Samuel. 

In 2019, Samuel not only was learning coach Kyle Shanahan’s playbook but adjusting to his first season in the NFL. It wasn’t until Week 8 that the 49ers made a trade with the Denver Broncos for Sanders and the game began to change for the rookie. 

With Sanders’ maturity and experience in the young wide receivers room, the entire group flourished as they learned from the veteran. Nearly 80 percent of Samuel's 802 regular season receiving yards in 2019 were accumulated after Sanders arrived in Santa Clara.

“Deebo is one of the guys who we were counting on a lot as a rookie,” Shanahan said on Wednesday. “I think when Emmanuel got here, he really saw a true pro and not just how he prepared, but how he attacked practice every day. 

“And Emmanuel only knew one way, like he went as hard as he could all the time and if he couldn’t, you had to protect him from himself. And I think it was really cool for Deebo to get to see. I think that’s why they clicked so much.”

Samuel revealed that he still talks to Sanders every week after games, and their conversations range from football and training to travel and life. On Thursday, the South Carolina product shared how Sanders reached out after his record setting performance vs. the Los Angeles Rams. 


“He was just excited saying, ‘You are becoming the guy I knew you were going to be,’ ” Samuel said. "He congratulated me.” 

The two receivers have built a lasting friendship that has left an impact on the 34-year-old as well. Not too long after his arrival in Santa Clara, Sanders was regularly seen dancing and jumping around with Samuel and Kendrick Bourne, who is now with the New England Patriots. 

It was a symbiotic relationship between the group, with each player and the team benefitting. Samuel shared what left the strongest impression from their time together.  

“It was his work ethic,” Samuel said. “Coming into meetings he would come in at 6:30 and we weren’t supposed to be here until 7:30. Just getting ahead of the playbook and the way he carried himself at practice. Just the leader he was and the energy he brought.”

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All-Pro tight end George Kittle benefitted from Sanders’ presence and like Shanahan, believes that the veteran has been the biggest influence on Samuel’s heightened productivity this season. 

“I can’t say enough great things about Emmanuel,” Kittle said. “The mindset he brought every single day, working, He never got tired. He never took himself out of a game. He would block his tail off every single time. 

“That mindset he brought, Deebo learned a lot from him, I learned a lot from him. I think if you didn’t learn from him, you have your head under a rock because he is a hell of a football player who does everything right.”

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