Daniel Brunskill has made a believer out of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who for a while knew the backup offensive lineman by only his uniform number.
“I’m glad I was able to make an impression,” said Brunskill who will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams in place of injured right tackle Mike McGlinchey. “I was glad I was able to make him learn my name.
“I don’t care that he didn’t know me before. That’s understandable. He believes in me now, and that’s awesome.”
Brunskill is an understated first-year player who spent the past two seasons on the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad. The 49ers signed him immediately following an April workout at the conclusion of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football season. He played for the San Diego Fleet and gained valuable experience against a higher level of competition.
Before embarking on his professional football career, Brunskill did not receive any college offers as a tight end. He was a walk-on at San Diego State, and eventually earned a scholarship entering his fourth year of college before his redshirt junior season.
What kind of tight end was he?
“A blocking tight end,” he deadpanned.
He caught 15 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns for the Aztecs in 2014 and ’15 before converting to the offensive line. He played at 270 pounds during his senior season and has put on another 30 pounds to play in the NFL.
Shanahan compares Brunskill to Justin Skule, a sixth-round draft pick who will make his third consecutive start at left tackle in place of Staley. Shanahan believes the assignment is something both young players can handle. Brunskill won a spot on the 49ers' 53-man roster after displaying his versatility to play every position on the offensive line, including center.
“When guys get thrown into these roles, not just the media eyes are all on them, but teammates’ eyes are all on them, too,” Shanahan said. “They know how big of a deal it is, they know someone is doing something for the first time.
“When a guy does that and looks the same as he has every other day, that is encouraging. The moment won’t be too big. He’ll go out there, he’ll have some good plays, some bad plays and, hopefully, we can string more good than bad.”
Brunskill said he enters the game against the Rams with a lot of confidence because he knows Shanahan will not ask him to do anything that he will be unable to accomplish. The 49ers (4-0) lead the NFC West over Seattle (4-1) and the Rams (3-2).
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“I believe in Kyle. He’s a great coach. He puts you in great situations,” Brunskill said. “I believe in this team, my brothers around me. They are great guys. They’re always there to protect you. It’s about believing in each other. It’s a family here. Everybody believes in each other.
“Kyle’s not going to put us in situations to look bad. He’s putting us out there to win. He’s going to put us in good situations to play well. I think it’ll be all right.”