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How 49ers' Brandon Aiyuk was recruited by Alabama to play cornerback

How 49ers' Brandon Aiyuk was recruited by Alabama to play cornerback

49ers freshly-minted first-round draft pick Brandon Aiyuk can do it all. Such has been the case since his days at McQueen High School in Reno, Nev.

Despite starring at Arizona State, the wide receiver had a chance to be a standout star at the most prestigious college football program in the nation: The University of Alabama.

Aiyuk's high school coach Jim Snelling said Alabama gave him a call inquiring about the freakishly athletic Aiyuk -- to play a different position.

Snelling’s phone rang and on the other end was a friend who, at the time, was at Alabama. He was curious if Aiyuk was capable of being a cornerback. 

“He said, 'Do you think Brandon can play corner in the SEC?' I said 'I don't know if he can -- I don't know if he runs well enough,’” Snelling told NBC Sports Bay Area. 

Aiyuk was back in the Reno area to work out in the next couple of days. That’s when Snelling approached him and said he had a call from the SEC school. 

Aiyuk wasn’t too sure about it.  

“He kind of said 'Aww man,'” Snelling explained.

“Brandon was dead set that he wanted to play receiver in college and in fact, my brother who's a head coach at Butte College -- we were talking to them about Brandon playing there, but they were looking at him as a corner,” Snelling said. “Brandon didn't want to play corner.”

Either way, Snelling timed Aiyuk’s 40-yard-dash.

He ran it twice: 4.46 and 4.48. Snelling immediately called his Alabama guy back.

“I told him he can definitely play corner in the SEC because he's so athletic, and so long -- and he highpoints the ball, and he runs well enough.”

Aiyuk checked all the boxes.

If you can’t run that well, you can’t play cornerback well in the SEC -- especially with all of those fast wide receivers roaming the country's most prolific football conference.

Imagine that. 

That quiet confidence that has been synonymous with him across each level, as chronicled by NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco last week, could have had him teaming up with Nick Saban. Saban would have been honored to have him -- anyone would have. That would have been a strong and fast squad, with other 2020 first-round receivers Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy all being members of the Crimson Tide at the same time. 

But despite Alabama wooing him, he wanted to play receiver.

Snelling admitted playing with Coach Herm Edwards at ASU, after a stint at Sierra Junior College, was the best fit for Aiyuk. He could have gone anywhere and done anything though. 

Aiyuk would have been foolish not to take advantage of what he was able to bring to the table. 

"He also was our punter which people didn't realize,” Snelling said. 

It was an idea brought forth from a coach that had seen Reggie Bush do the same thing at Helix High School in San Diego, as having someone of Aiyuk’s ability would force other teams to play them honestly. 

Serving as the punter, in addition to playing many other positions, had him as a regular on the field. 

“He was our punter, our kick-off return guy, obviously our punt-return guy, and then was our feature guy at wide receiver and was our lockdown corner. So he never came off the field -- he was pretty much out there all the time,” Snelling laughed. 

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Athletes in Northern Nevada often aren't scouted heavily, but Aiyuk, a 2016 graduate at McQueen, was special. His 81-inch wingspan made NFL combine enthusiasts blush, which has been compared to that of six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson, or even someone who had a 6-feet-8 frame. Aiyuk measures at 6-feet tall. 

Snelling even dubbed Aiyuk as one of the best athletes as a senior in the entire state of Nevada.

[RELATED: John Lynch leaned on Edwards for Aiyuk insight]

While the two didn’t have a very close relationship off the field, Snelling admitted he’d been paying close attention to Aiyuk's career. Aiyuk matured a lot during his time at Sierra College in the nearby city of Rocklin, Snelling admitted. 

But regardless, Snelling on the edge of his seat during that ridiculous 81-yard touchdown against the Oregon Ducks in November, just as the rest of us were.

Here it is for a reminder.

We don’t know what would have played out if Aiyuk were to decide on Alabama, or Butte -- or any of the other places that wanted him to play at a different position. Perhaps the butterfly effect would have changed something -- or nothing at all. But his insane athletic ability would still have us talking about him in 2020. 

The 49ers are just glad he’s sporting their colors now, and selfishly as a Niners fan himself, so is Snelling. 

Watch 49ers' George Kittle bench press a ridiculous amount in workout

Watch 49ers' George Kittle bench press a ridiculous amount in workout

If you want to know how strong George Kittle is, you can just ask Marcus Williams.

If you don't have the ability to contact an NFL safety and/or don't want to troll one on social media while trying to do so, you can just watch this video of the 49ers tight end bench-pressing a ridiculous amount of weight courtesy of trainer Josh Cuthbert.

That's five plates on each side of the bar, which Cuthbert said in a comment on his post added up to 375 pounds.

So, Kittle could bench press new 49ers left tackle Trent Williams' listed weight on the team website ... and still have 55 pounds to work with.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Cuthbert conspiculously included the hashtag #PayGeorgeKittle, referring to the star tight end's contract extension negotiations with the 49ers. Kittle didn't share that post on his Instagram story, which shouldn't be much of a surprise considering his prior comments about not wanting to hold out.

“Being a captain, I want to be there for my team and I need to show the right leadership skills,” Kittle said.

Even if Kittle did hold out, it'd be hard to argue against the example that video would set from a distance.

[RELATED: Taylor shows off muscles, gets roasted by 49ers teammates]

It's not clear if Kittle and the 49ers will agree to a contract extension before training camp is scheduled to begin later this month. NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco reported last month that the two sides haven't appeared to make much progress.

If and when Kittle reaches an agreement with the 49ers, they'll know he pretty easily could bench-press the table it's signed upon.

49ers' Trent Taylor hilariously trolled by teammates for muscle pose

49ers' Trent Taylor hilariously trolled by teammates for muscle pose

The 49ers love to rip on one another, and no player's Instagram posts are safe.

Exhibit No. 4,949 (give or take)? Trent Taylor's thirst trap Instagram photo from earlier this week.

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Stache Gainz (early stages)

A post shared by Trent Nelson Taylor (@trent5taylor) on

Based on the picture above, you surely know what followed.

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Taylor didn't play a single game in 2019, missing all of the season due to complications with his injured foot. You wouldn't know that reading the comments, though.

The 26-year-old slot receiver was a fixture at the 49ers' player-organized workouts earlier in the offseason, rebuilding a connection with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that was so strong in 2017. Taylor could play a big role this season, considering Deebo Samuel and Richie James' offseason injuries.

[RELATED: What Garrett's reported extension means for Bosa, 49ers]

The 49ers hope Taylor can reach his 2017 level, and some big performances surely would lead to more Instagram posts.

That, more than anything, might be why his teammates want to see Taylor succeed.