What have the hours been like since you heard your name called?
“It’s been a little hectic, but it’s been a lot of fun. When the clock struck eight o’clock last night, it got a little stressful, just playing the waiting game and waiting to hear your name called. Once it was called, it kind of got to be a whirlwind. I was on the phone with a lot of different people and then got to be able to celebrate with my family and enjoy that time with them and that’s why I stayed home. I wanted to do that. We probably went a little long and then the car came at five a.m. this morning to pick me up for the airport. It’s been a long day, but it’s a lot of fun and I’m happy to be in San Francisco.”
What stood out to me, we were on the conference call with you last night and you were so composed and everything was polished. Then I got to see the video. I’m guessing you’ve seen the video too, but it seemed like a really, really emotional moment for you.
“Absolutely. Yeah. I’ve got a huge crazy family with a lot of people that are a lot of fun and very loud and very exciting, but it’s something I’ve worked for and my family has helped me work for 20-something years now. It was a huge moment for us and it’s a big accomplishment to be playing in the NFL and be a top-10 pick at such a prestigious organization like the 49ers and to have that happen is just one of those things that you’ll never forget.”
You talked a little bit about your cousin Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan yesterday. Have you had a chance to talk with him at length and has he talked to you about head coach Kyle Shanahan and the offense?
“Yeah, actually Matt was one of the first people to call me right when I got off the phone with Kyle and [general manager] John [Lynch]. He was just saying how pumped he is for me and had such an awesome experience, obviously, with coach Shanahan down in Atlanta and getting to a Super Bowl and the amount of success that they had together. Joking around, obviously, that I’m going to need some tips on the playbook here, so I can learn it a little faster and get up to speed. But, Matt has been supportive of me and obviously knows how great of a situation it is coming in here and playing for coach Shanahan and obviously this organization.”
You mentioned last night that you hadn’t talked to the team since the combine, the formal interview at the combine. Last night, John and Kyle both talked about how impressive you were. Can you take us back to that meeting, any specific things that you remember from it at all?
“I don’t really remember too many specifics other than just talking football. I don’t really have too many things to be digging up on in my past, so I think they appreciated that. So, we were able to just talk football and that’s all I tried to do and show my knowledge of the game, and the way that I study the game, and the way I prepare for the game and love this game. I think I got that message across clearly to them enough to the point where they kept it from me that they were going to pick me and it was a nice surprise for sure.”
You got a chance to meet T Joe Staley. How was that?
“It was awesome. Joe’s obviously one of the most accomplished tackles in the NFL and has been for a long time. He and I played under some similar coaching trees, so he’s one of those guys I’ve studied for a long time on top of admiring him from afar. It’s going to be an unbelievable opportunity to play across from Joe and learn from him and the kind of guy and player that he is. I mean, his reputation exceeds him and he’s deserving of all the credit that he has and very, very excited to get to work with Joe and learn from him and hopefully elevate my game to the level that he’s been playing at for a long time.”
They obviously believe a lot in you to take you at number nine and now they traded the guy that was playing right tackle today. When you saw that, what were your thoughts?
“I didn’t really know too much about it. I was picked by the 49ers to come in and compete and play football and that’s all I’m going to do. I’m not the one in charge of shaping the roster. I’m not the one in charge of making those kinds of decisions. They brought me here to play offensive line and that’s what I’m going to do no matter if it’s first-year starter or riding the bench for a little while.”
Is there anything that you wanted to learn about the 49ers after they selected you to kind of brush up before you got here?
“Not too much. I’d kind of done my homework on all the teams, so I knew who I was getting myself into. Obviously, Mr. Lynch and coach Shanahan have unbelievable reputations in this league. John as a player and just one of the best that’s ever done it and on top of just being a great person as well. And Kyle, obviously, I’ve had stories from my cousin and the way that he does things and how successful he’s been. I knew that’s what I was getting into and I was really, really excited for the opportunity.”
Did you meet any other teammates today? Have you talked to QB Jimmy Garoppolo or RB Jerick McKinnon, a guy who you’re going to be blocking for?
“I did talk to Jimmy. I met Jimmy for a little bit. I spoke to him for a little while in between his workout stuff. I’m really excited to get to work with him. I’m really, really excited to get to work with Jimmy. He’s going to be a guy that’s going to lead this football team into great heights and I think that we’re going to have a lot of success together. Seeing what he did at the end of the year last year when he got here and having coach Shanahan and all those guys around him, I think we’re going to have a chance to do something pretty special.”
There’s kind of a full circle aspect to this. I read at the combine you said that when Matt was drafted you were in eighth grade. I think Joe Staley was drafted the year before that. I just saw the video. You ran into Joe in the cafeteria. I guess you said in eighth grade, that is when your NFL dream really materialized. How cool was it to run into Joe, the guy from the same coaching tree today and realizing you will be playing with him?
“It was incredible. Like I said earlier, he’s a guy that I’ve not only admired and looked up to and known who he was, I studied Joe. I studied how he does things, what techniques he uses to try to put it into my own game. I was able to have that access and know who he was because of the coaches that are at Notre Dame and had coached him before. Like I said, I’m just so, so excited to get to be in the same room as him and get to get around him and learn as much as I can from him in a quick amount of time.”
You probably heard from your cousin that they playbook is pretty extensive. Have you got a chance to look at the playbook yet?
“I have not, no. I have not looked at the playbook yet at all. Just got on the plane and then got here about two hours ago. We’ll get it going soon.”
You finished your career with 39 straight starts. Did you ever have to play through significant injuries?
“Nothing too significant. I had a sprained ankle for most of my junior season, my true junior year. I had the stomach flu in my first start ever. That was kind of crappy. I had a broken hand in a couple of games. Nothing that’s ever been too significant that’s ever kept me out of playing. If I’m able to play and if I’m moving and if I can stay in front of people, I’m going to be playing. That’s the mindset that I’ve always had since I’ve been playing football.”
You don’t consider a broken hand significant?
Did you ever miss any games in high school?
“No. I played every snap, both ways, special teams in high school. I went to a high school with about 30 guys on our varsity football team and I started as a freshman and then on.”
Have you ever missed a game? How about peewee?
“Not football. I’ve never missed a football game. I’ve missed basketball, though. My sophomore year of high school, I had a little ankle thing that I couldn’t run up and down the court, so that kept me out of a couple basketball games.”
Obviously, it worked out pretty well for both of you, but there’s been a lot of attention for Indianapolis Colts G Quenton Nelson throughout the draft process. Did you ever feel like you were being overlooked at all? Was there any competitive element between you two going into this?
“Well, there’s obviously a competitive element to the two of us and that’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re at the level that we’re at. I never felt like I was getting shortchanged. ‘Q’ deserves everything that he’s getting. He’s as good of a player as there is in the country and probably eventually in this league. He’s as good as it gets in terms of a player, obviously, and everybody can see that, but he’s a guy that just goes to work each and every day and pushes people to get the most out of his teammates and compete at the highest level. That’s all that we’ve done together and we both played a significant role in pushing each other to where we’re at now. I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to play next to ‘Q’ for three years.”
One of the things people on the internet have written about you is they think you are probably only a right tackle in the league. Do you have a response to that?
“It doesn’t really bother me. Right tackles are still playing in the NFL so that’s not a bad deal. I don’t know what kind of an insult it is to play right tackle versus left tackle. I don’t think that there’s anything that’s very much different other than body mechanics. If you go look at the league, there’s guys like [Denver Broncos OLB] Von Miller and [Oakland Raiders DE] Khalil Mack and all those guys that rush on the right side, so it’s not like I’m not going to be playing somebody that’s elite as a pass rusher on the right tackle, either. I guess the only difference is that all 32 guys right now are right-handed, so they can see where it is coming from.”
Is that going to be your number forever? Have you settled on that jersey or is there another number you’d like to look at?
“It’s good with me. Yeah, I’m going to settle with that one. It’s one number higher than I had in college and it’s close. It’ll work for me.”
I saw that Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly, I don’t know if he was joking, back during your recruitment, he joked that he was afraid he was going to lose you to the basketball program. Was that a thing?
“Not a serious thing, but it could have been a thing, if I had let it be a thing. Actually, one of my best friends and my roommate throughout college was Steve Vasturia, who was a guy form Philadelphia as well, and he was on the basketball team at Notre Dame. I would always kind of play pickup with them in the offseasons and stuff like that. Got the feel of the Notre Dame basketball team, but it was never anything very serious that I was ever going to pick up basketball full-time. I knew I wanted to play football. Football is the thing I love to do and I want to make a career out of it. I wasn’t going to probably be too good playing offensive tackle if I was losing 20 pounds every offseason.”
How would you describe your basketball game?
“I haven’t played in a long time so it’s going to be pretty hard to do that. I was a guy that was always fearful that I was going to stop growing, so I learned how to shoot a jump shot pretty early. So, I could shoot it a little bit, but I was mostly inside and a big.”
How tall were you when you when you stopped playing basketball?
“I graduated eighth grade at like 6-5, so I got to about as tall as I am now when I was entering my freshman year of high school.”
You’re not a big fan of In-And-Out burger?
“I had a feeling that was going to come bite me in the butt.”
So, you have to tell us what your favorite burger is?
“I think of the three that are comparable, I guess it’s like Five Guys, What-A-Burger and In-And-Out, are kind of all the same type of deal, I would say Five Guys is probably my favorite out of all of those. I don’t know. I liked the burger at In-And-Out. The burger was good, it was just the other stuff around it that didn’t give me the full package.”