Dante Pettis

How 49ers WR Dante Pettis answered questions about his off-field interests

How 49ers WR Dante Pettis answered questions about his off-field interests

In the lead-up to the NFL draft, Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis took official visits to meet with six teams.

Each team had the same questions, the same concerns, he revealed on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“I’m not shy about what I like outside of football,” Pettis said. “So a lot of people take that as, ‘Oh, maybe he’s not bought into football all the way.’ So they’ll try to get that out of me. ‘How committed is he to football?’ So I think that’s the biggest thing they’re trying to get. But, I'd say that what I wanted to get across worked.”

It certainly worked for the 49ers. The team traded up to select Pettis in the second round of the draft with the No. 44 overall selection.

The off-field matters that might have concerned some teams had nothing to do with his character. Pettis majored in creative writing, and he likes literature, photography, movies and music. And to some teams, that might have been a red flag.

Seriously.

“I’m very interested in art,” Pettis said. “I feel like that’s really different for a football player. A lot of people have stuff they like to do outside of football, but if it’s something that’s different, it’s like, ‘Hold on, he likes to do what?’

“So that’s what caught their eye, and the fact I’m not afraid to say it, too, I think they wanted to make sure I was all in.”

Pettis had to prove to teams that he was more passionate about football than he was about his outside interests.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re like off the field, it’s what you’re like on the field,” Pettis said. “And the fact that art and all that stuff breeds creativity, I think that helps a ton. You can look at things differently.”

Pettis had a record-setting nine punt returns for touchdowns in his college career. Coach Kyle Shanahan said a benefit to adding Pettis to his 49ers offense is Pettis' versatiity. Pettis is capable of playing every receiver position.

After playing almost exclusively on the outside in his first three college seasons, Pettis lined up in the slot as a senior. He caught 63 passes for 761 yards and seven touchdowns. He said his creative side helped him make that transition.

“Playing the slot is a lot more different than playing the other two outside positions because you look at the field differently, you go against different people. You go against a linebacker, a safety, a nickel, whatever,” Pettis said. “And you run a different route tree, so you have to approach the game differently.

“You might have to slow down your routes because you don’t want to run through a window too fast or run into another guy. Being able to look at the game differently helps a lot.”

Top returners in college football join 49ers competition

Top returners in college football join 49ers competition

SANTA CLARA -- Trent Taylor, who ranked ninth in the NFL in punt returns last season as a 49ers rookie, will be challenged by the two best coming out of the college ranks.

Washington receiver Dante Pettis, a second-round draft pick of the 49ers, ranked No. 1 in college football with a 20.4-yard average. Cornerback D.J. Reed, whom the 49ers selected in the fifth round, was second at 14.9.

On Friday morning at the 49ers’ rookie minicamp they were fielding punts along with several other unsuspecting newcomers during the team’s walk-through practice.

“We were both laughing because people were like, ‘You guys return kicks?’ ” Reed said. “And we were like, ‘A little bit.’ ”

Pettis is college football’s all-time record holder with nine career punt returns for touchdowns. In Reed’s final season at Kansas State, he returned one punt and one kickoff for touchdowns.

“I felt we do different things,” Reed said. “He’s very elusive with the ball, and so am I. But I feel how I return is a little different.

“For me, I make a lot of guys miss. I’m very twitchy, very jukey. But, then again, I also have power and can run through people. He has a great asset to his game. He’s very elusive.”

Taylor, the 49ers’ starting slot receiver, had a strong rookie season on special teams with a 9.4-yard average on punt returns. Pettis said he is more concerned about establishing himself on offense.

“I kind of view myself as a receiver and not really a punt returner,” Pettis said. “Everything I aim for is receiver-wise and not really punt returner.”

Yet, there is not escaping the fact the 49ers view Pettis as a four-down player. He is capable of playing each of the wide receiver positions, as well as being a game-changer as a return man.

“My best attribute is my decision making and aggressiveness,” Pettis replied. “I try to catch everything. It will be a little bit of a transition. I will not be able to just run around people and I have to trust my blocking even more.”

Dante Pettis knew 49ers liked him, but he was surprised to be drafted that high

Dante Pettis knew 49ers liked him, but he was surprised to be drafted that high

The 49ers were slated to make a selection at No. 59 overall in last week's NFL Draft.

But they traded up to No. 44 to take wide receiver/punt returner Dante Pettis.

What was it like getting the phone call?

"It was incredible. I thought I was gonna go a little bit later, so I wasn't really expecting that phone call," Pettis said on KNBR 680. "I saw the area code and everything and I was like, 'no way this is happening right now.' It was insane."

The 49ers hostd Pettis on a visit a couple of weeks before the draft, and clearly came away impressed.

Pettis racked up an NCAA-record nine punt returns for touchdowns at Washington, including four as a senior.

"I'm a play-maker. I think that I have the capability to change the momentum of a game," Pettis said. "I knew that they (the 49ers) liked me, but everything that I had been hearing was third-round stuff. I wasn't really expecting this early."

Pettis, who grew up in Southern California, is happy to be staying in the pacific time zone.

"It's awesome. I'm about an hour plane ride from home. It will be easy for my family to get to the games. My dad's actually from Oakland ... it's pretty cool to stay on the West Coast."