At the NFL annual meetings San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan gave quite a bit of praise to his rookie wideout Kendrick Bourne, saying he should be proud of his first season. Hearing those words was a pleasant surprise to Bourne who recalls the challenges he faced, including thinking he was going to be sent packing after being late to a meeting early in the season. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise that got the receiver on the straight and narrow for the rest of his rookie season.
“I was almost cut. One of the the scariest moments of my life. I thought I was going to be cut. So, for it to go the way it did, was very exciting for me.”
Arriving in Santa Clara, Bourne already had an uphill battle, missing OTAs because of the school attendance rule that doesn’t allow players to attend offseason programs unless they have either graduated, or their school is no longer in session. With Shanahan’s extensive playbook, there was a lot to learn and Bourne didn’t get live reps until mandatory minicamp. He did have the playbook ahead of time but Bourne prides himself on never making the same mistake twice in live reps, and lost valuable practices during the three weeks of OTAs.
Bourne worked hard to try to catch up but nothing could have prepared him for the meeting with Shanahan after being late to a meeting early in the season. While he knew he would be reprimanded, being told, “Coach wants to see you in his office” made the receiver’s heart sink. He even questioned packing his bags before heading to Shanahan’s office.
What Bourne realized was that in the NFL “they really don’t need anyone” and being an undrafted free agent made it even more scary. Luckily for Bourne, Shanahan felt his rookie receiver was too valuable and talented to lose and gave him a second chance. The team also brought in Louis Murphy to relieve some of the pressure on Bourne to play early on and guide the rookie in his first season. The most important thing that Shanahan told Bourne in the infamous meeting? That he wouldn’t last in the league if he continued on his current path.
“I kind of knew, me going into the meeting with him, what led to that meeting. He kind of told me he was mad at me, disappointed in me.”
Bourne buckled down and worked extensively with receivers coach Mike LaFleur. He spent 30-60 minutes with his coach before every game to help him prepare until the game plans were second nature. LaFleur stayed on top of his receiver, in a good way, and ultimately everything “started to click.” Bourne also gives a lot of credit to Katie Sowers, who was the only one to tell him to relax and just focus on the ball.
Bourne did face a similar situation at Eastern Washington where he thought he learned his lesson from being late, but there’s no mistaking that he really did this time. He realizes that now, there is no margin for error and he “never wants that feeling again.” While he regrets being late for the meeting, he says he’s glad it happened remarking “God did this to me for a reason.” He couldn’t be happier knowing that his hard work did not go unnoticed.
“I didn’t know [Shanahan] felt like that after the season so it was pretty exciting to hear him say he was proud of me and shocked about how I went about it. Me working so hard moving on from that situation was big for me. I'm proud of it too but it’s something I’m always going to remember. It will always be in the back of my head.”