Kendrick Bourne continued to defy the odds last season as a former undrafted free agent, but it wasn't exactly a fast start for the 49ers receiver.
Bourne, 24, didn't catch a touchdown pass until the 49ers' eighth game of the year last season. Through the first seven games he only had 10 receptions for 151 yards and didn't find the end zone. The last nine games, though, Bourne hauled in 20 receptions for 207 yards and five touchdowns.
As the season progress, he could feel his bond growing with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
"As I started to get more playing time and chemistry with Jimmy, it just actually naturally clicked," Bourne said Tuesday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show.
Bourne's five touchdown receptions wound up tying George Kittle for the team lead. Bourne also caught six passes for 88 yards and one touchdown in the playoffs, while Kittle didn't reach the end zone.
[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
Though Bourne went undrafted and Garoppolo was picked by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, neither one played at a Division-I school. They both played collegiately at FCS schools -- Bourne at Eastern Washington and Garoppolo at Eastern Illinois -- and Bourne believes that's helped with their chemistry.
"I always take it back to FCS -- I don't know, man. There's somethin' about FCS, it's just me and him connectin', man," Bourne said. "It's so crazy to think about how he was at Eastern Illinois when I was at Eastern Washington.
"I watched him, because he was always in the playoffs with us and always in competition with us -- just always a top-tier dude."
The 49ers traded for Garoppolo in 2017, the same year they signed Bourne after the draft. As they have grown on the field, the receiver said they have a great relationship away from the gridiron as well.
"He's a cool dude, just laid back," Bourne said. "He never blames us. ... He always tries to make himself be better, and that's how our whole team is. That's why we've played top-tier football."