The San Francisco 49ers first pick in the third round, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, believes that his multi sport background gives him an edge in the NFL. The cornerback, who will be wearing No. 41 for the time being, believes not specializing in a sport helped him as a football player.
The sport that Witherspoon excelled at almost as much as football was soccer, where he was an outside midfielder. He believes soccer helped with his footwork as well as with his body awareness. Playing defense in basketball helped develop his lateral body movement. Playing in multiple sports, Witherspoon always heard a certain quote in his head.
“‘If you’re good at a lot of things, you’ll never be great at one thing.’ That’s one thing that always resonated with me and then I thought about and I thought no, I can try to be great at everything I do. That’s kind of where my mentality changed when I was growing up.”
One of the challenges Witherspoon has coming into the league is to be more physical in his play. General manager John Lynch spoke to the cornerback about it during his pre draft visit with the team. Witherspoon heard that specific criticism from more than just the 49ers but believes it will come more naturally to him as he gains more experience in his position. Lynch told Witherspoon that he saw flashes of both good and bad and showed him examples of each on film.
Witherspoon explained that he has been diagnosing plays instead of just “going in and blowing it up” which is what he will be focusing on during his development. Lynch liked that Witherspoon was willing to be physical and is simply looking for more consistency in his play.
Even after a positive visit with the team, Witherspoon was still surprised when he saw the San Jose area code pop on his phone during the draft.
“He said, ‘Hey this is John Lynch with the 49ers.’ My first response quote, unquote was, ‘Man, quit playin.’ I was in such awe, and he’s like, ‘No, this is John Lynch.’ and I was like ‘Man.’ He was like, ‘We want to bring you in,’ and then I went crazy.”
Even with so much ahead, Witherspoon is still determined to go to medical school after his career in the NFL comes to an end. He has nine credits remaining in his biology major which he will finish in the offseason during his free time. Witherspoon plans on being a surgeon, which seem only appropriate with his hands, which he calls “incredible.”