The San Francisco 49ers invested a third round pick in an intriguing cornerback prospect this past week, selecting Ahkello Witherspoon out of Colorado. He’s got the size and length could bodes extremely for the 49ers transition to the Seahawks style of defense. Conveniently enough, his closest athletic comparison is Richard Sherman.
Witherspoon is a NorCal native, getting the call from the 49ers in Sacramento. That location actually resulted in him growing up with 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead. Witherspoon said he played basketball with Armstead, and trained with Armstead’s dad. It’s good to know he’s got a friend on the roster before he even gets to town.
Here is what Witherspoon had to say in his post-draft conference call.
Where are you right now?
“I’m home in Sacramento.”
Was this a dream scenario for you, almost a local team and one that plays a defense that you seem well suited for?
“Sorry, I can’t hear you. You’re cutting out.”
I just wanted to know if this was a dream scenario for you, as far as location and the type of defense that the 49ers play?
“Yes, yes, definitely. Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense that they play, pressure man, up in your face. When I came in for a visit they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ And, again, just an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home with such a savvy defense and mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”
What did you gather from your visit here? What kind of, did you feel like you were able to build a rapport quickly with the coaching staff and who did you meet with?
“Yeah, it was good. We had good conversation, good relationship. They were very high on my game and they just really wanted me to come in and compete and just do what they ask me to do and that’s what I’m going to come do.”
Did University of Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre recruit you?
And were you, had he already gone to Colorado by that time? He wasn’t at San Jose State?
“Yeah, he was one year in at Colorado.”
Can you talk about your relationship with DL Arik Armstead? How long have you known him and known his family?
“Yeah, I grew up playing basketball with him, specifically training with his father. His father is a basketball trainer, so I was always around him. He was always kind of like a big brother, physically and just being inspirational as well to me and I’m just excited to have the opportunity to play next to him. It’s going to be a great place.”
What do you know about the defense you’ll be coming into? Are you familiar with that Seattle Seahawks type of scheme?
“Yeah, I mean, I know that they play just press man, tight thirds, cover three, which basically turns into man once the receiver reaches vertical and that’s what we discussed on my visit out there and that they liked my ability to play press and be up in your face and be physical. That’s what I intend to do.”
Did you think you would go right around where you were picked?
“Yeah, I was thinking late second, early third round and that’s where I was.”
Do you feel, because relatively speaking you haven’t played a lot of football, do you feel like you have a lot of room for growth?
“Yeah, definitely. That’s what I told them. I think that’s what was intriguing to them is that yes I am capable. I’m exceptional right now, but I was telling them that my potential and what I’ll be in three years I think is what is really exciting for me as a player. And that’s kind of one of the reasons I keep grinding every day, and kinda my fuel is I’m interested to see how good I can be, as well as they are, and I think we can take this to a very special place.”
Where do you actually envision your game in three years? How do you see yourself fitting into the NFL?
“I think just a dominant player, both in the run game and the pass game. That’s one of my weaknesses is in tackling. I don’t shy away from it, I think it’s just the experience, understanding how to get the guy down, and understanding when and where to shoot and take my opportunities and make plays. I think just becoming a more well-rounded player is what I aspire to be and I think that with experience that will come.”
Where are you most comfortable playing? Do you like the outside? Can you play the slot?
“Yeah, I can play both. I mean, in college people cut down their split so I’m essentially playing in the slot with a lot of green. So, once again I can play both and I intend to do so.”
The 49ers last night got, what some people would say, two of the best defensive players in the draft. What was your reaction when you saw them take DL Solomon Thomas and LB Reuben Foster and what’s it going to be like for you to be able to grow with those guys?
“Yeah, I think it’s gonna be big. I mean, Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster, those are two guys that I’ve seen play at a very high level and I think they’re ability to play the game is something I can learn from as well. And I keep growing in a program like San Francisco that has a lot of good pieces is going to be beautiful.”
How much of a role model was your older sister to you growing up?
“Oh, she was big. She actually was the one that first started playing soccer, and just her interest in soccer kind of led me to follow her steps. And I’m the most thankful for that sport just because it gave me the footwork, the body awareness that I now take into football. And without her, I don’t really know if I would have played soccer if I wouldn’t have had that urge. So, I’m extremely thankful for her.”