The San Francisco 49ers were at the center of the football world leading up to the opening of the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday. Everyone wanted to know which quarterback general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were going to select to lead the franchise.
There was no shortage of opinions on who the Niners would take to be the signal-caller of the future. Some NFL insiders guessed it would be Alabama’s Mac Jones, while others felt Ohio State’s Justin Fields would be the choice.
Instead, the 49ers went with Trey Lance of North Dakota State. The 20-year-old started 17 games in college, and at 6’4, 228 pounds, he has the build NFL scouts love in quarterbacks.
Shanahan said the team locked into picking Lance on Monday as the rest of the NFL world scrambled to figure out which way San Francisco would go. Shanahan added that the team intends on keeping incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo, who didn’t waste any time reaching out to the rookie, per 49ers team reporter Keiana Martin.
I'm told Jimmy Garoppolo asked for Trey Lance's number immediately after the pick to welcome him to the team.— Keiana Martin (@KeianaMartinTV) April 30, 2021
If that doesn't say enough about the character of the people on this team, I don't know what does.#49ers
Lance met with the Bay Area media following the selection. You can read the full transcript below, courtesy of the 49ers communications team.
Congratulations. Welcome to the Bay Area. Can you just take us through what the last month was like from the time the Niners made the trade to going to work with former QB John Beck, all the stuff that took you up to this night and then what your feelings were when it happened?
“Yeah, it’s been awesome. Like you said, went out to work with John Beck in California and Adam Dedeaux and Taylor [Kelly] and those guys and it was awesome. I got to throw with a lot of different guys. I got to meet a lot of different guys, whether it was just on the field or sitting down at dinner. So, it was an awesome experience for me and definitely learned a lot. I guess, fast forward a little bit to my second pro day was awesome. For me, it was just giving those guys another opportunity to see me. I wanted them to know exactly what they were getting and past that, it’s just been Zoom meetings and then obviously just excited for this opportunity.”
Congratulations, and I want to find out just your expectations for year one. Do you expect something similar to where you went to North Dakota State and you learned for a year, like you wanted to do, and then were able to get in and show? Do you expect kind of a similar plan or are you ready to roll right away?
“Honestly, I’m not really worried about it right now. Right now. I’m just focused on getting there, learning as much as I possibly can. Getting to know [QB] Jimmy [Garoppolo] and the guys in the room and learning. Getting to know him, becoming close with him and like I said, just learning as much as I can. Then at that point, obviously competing.”
You’re the number three pick in the draft, so it’s going to be hard to be the underdog still, but still, there is talk about you may not be ready quite for the NFL and you didn’t play that much and, ‘Oh, gee, it’s North Dakota State.’ Is some of this similar to what you heard when you were coming out of high school and will it be like a lot of athletes, fuel for you?
“Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of the same stuff, this whole process and I understand it’s a critiquing process, because that’s what it is. It’s probably the longest job interview that I have ever had or longer than I ever thought that I’d have, but I don’t think I could have been in a better situation. Like I said, just super excited to get there and learn and at this point, like I said, the biggest thing for me is just getting there. Getting to know the coaching staff, and my teammates and the guys in the quarterback room.”
One of the things a lot of people said about you coming into this process was that you had a lot on your plate, that North Dakota State asked you to do a lot pre-snap, things like that. Can you tell us what were some of the things that you did and things that you think could maybe help speed up your process as you adjust to the NFL?
“I think just the ability and having to learn the offense at North Dakota State, whether it was from a terminology standpoint or everything we did with play action or whatever it was, calling protection with the line of scrimmage. And, obviously I was super blessed to have a coaching staff that trusted me and believed in me to make those decisions. So, for me, I think that was a huge advantage for me and I’m excited to get there and learn as much as I possibly can and being at North Dakota State was a huge blessing for me from that standpoint and I’m thankful for it.”
I think for your first pro day in early March, you guys incorporated some 49ers like plays into that script, but then the 49ers weren’t prominent at that pro day. Did you notice that and can you talk about when their kind of involvement began with you and whether you kind of felt like they were a team that was interested in you from the get-go?
“Oh yeah, I really didn’t know. And for me, my whole mindset the last six, seven months of training has just been control what I can control and not worrying about what I can’t. So, for me, whether it was who from what team or what teams were or were not at my pro day, wasn’t something that I even paid attention to, honestly. Yeah, I wanted to obviously, with my pro day, give teams an opportunity to see me and do as much within their offense as I possibly could and show that I can do that, whether it was play action or different concepts. The last few months, obviously, I’ve had the opportunity to talk on Zoom and on the phone with some of the coaches on the 49ers. Like I said, I don’t think there’s a better situation out there for me.”
I had an opportunity to talk to John Beck and he told me what you can do in this offense. I’m curious what he told you about what it’s going to be like for playing under head coach Kyle Shanahan because I’m sure that question came up from you?
“Yeah, John was a great resource and will continue to be for me. Like I said, I learned a ton being out there with him. Got to watch film on multiple teams. He has high expectations for me and holds Kyle, coach Shanahan, at a very high, on a pedestal. It’s well deserved. Obviously, John has done it at the highest level and has played at the highest level, done exactly what I want to do. So, for me, John Beck is a great resource for me and I’m excited to continue to learn from him.”
Just curious, given you only had one game this year and it was sort of a weird showcase game. What do you do to try to continue the development and to continue to get better when you can’t get those game reps?
“Yeah, that was another thing that I just had no control over. So, for me it’s been whether it’s film study, NFL film or my film, learning as much as I possibly can just about the game of football in that situation. So, for me, that’s been the biggest thing. Obviously, working out with as many different people as I can and over the last six, seven months. Sitting down and meeting with as many football minds as I possibly can, whether it’s quarterbacks, guys in the league right now, honestly, John Beck helped me a ton with just getting me those connections. So, for me, it’s been about more on the mental side, just learning as much as I can about the game and fine tuning my mechanics and just being as ready as I possibly can.”
General manager John Lynch and Kyle both said that it was a really great to meet your parents when they were at your pro day. They said how impressed they were and Kyle Shanahan was a ball boy with the 49ers when your dad was in camp. Can you talk about that interaction between Kyle and John and your parents and what it meant to you?
“Yeah, first, I guess, what it meant to my parents. It meant the world to them and my younger brother as well. Them just taking the time to just say hi. That meant a lot. So, for me knowing that that coaching staff and my coaching staff went out of their way to meet my parents, that means a lot for me not just as a football player, but just as a person.”
Kyle is known as kind of a stickler about footwork and very particular, finetune things and pretty harsh in some meetings with his quarterbacks. What was that process like in terms of him asking you that tough questions about, maybe your worst moments on film, and how’d you sort of deal with that?
“Yeah. I mean, I’ve watched my worst moments on film, probably a million times, whether it was only playing 17 games or just all the Zoom meetings over the last six, seven months. So, for me, I think obviously he’s going to continue to teach me and coach me a lot, him and [quarterbacks] [49ers quarterbacks coach Rich] Scangarello and the rest of the coaching staff and the quarterbacks in the quarterback room. So, for me, I’m just excited to get there and learn. Obviously, he hasn’t coached me one-on-one in that situation. But I’m really looking for it.”
Congratulations. I just want to know, you’ve realized the dream right now. What was that phone call like initially with the coach and John?
“It was pretty emotional for me right away. Just kind of a surreal feeling and, obviously, not knowing what the situation was going to be going into it. You never really knew until you knew. So, for me, it was emotional. Just super blessed. I felt super thankful for everyone that’s helped me get to this point.”
Congratulations. We heard that you have a family dog named ‘Niner.’ I’m wondering if that’s true and, if so, is that related to the 49ers? Then, if I could sneak another one in there, how much of the 49ers have you gotten to watch and how do you think you fit in with these guys on the field and off?
“Yeah, I do have a dog named Niner. It was more honestly because I was number nine. My dad wore number nine. My brother wore number nine all throughout high school. My dad wore it throughout his professional career. But yeah, it works out great. Now it’s got to be God. God did that. I’ve watched a ton of football in general, so I’m super excited just to get there and, like I said, just learn. Learn from the guys in the room, learn from the coaching staff and be able to compete.”
Trey, what are your expectations for your pro career? Just looking at the whole big picture here, what do you want to get accomplished?
“I’m not going to get ahead of myself. We’re night one. Hour one right now. So, for me, my biggest thing is just getting in it and learning as much as I possibly can. I’m just excited to get there, get to know the community, get to know the organization and learn, like I said, just learn.”
Still haven’t forgiven you about the ranch comment, but how much 49ers have you watched? Just from a familiarity standpoint for the roster, and what do you think your biggest learning curve would be as a rookie coming in?
“I’m not sure off the top of my head what it’ll be, but I’m excited to get there and be challenged. I know this coaching staff is going to push me to get better every single day. That’s something I’m really looking forward to, getting outside of my comfort zone again. I’m sorry about that comment about the ranch. It’s still true. But yeah, like I said, just excited. I know this coaching staff and the guys in the quarterback room are going to push me and help me compete and help me learn. So, that’s the biggest thing I’m just looking forward to it.”
Kyle Shanahan describes you as the CEO of a company in the way you relate to your teammates. Can you talk a little bit about that skillset and when you started to develop it?
“For me, it’s just earning that mutual level of respect, and that’s earned. Especially as a quarterback, obviously you have to make sacrifices. This is what I signed up for and this is what I love to do and I can’t wait to do it. But, just for me, it’s about treating people the right way and leaving an impact on people. That’s bigger than football. So obviously football is what I love to do and I can’t wait to get there and learn. But, I don’t believe that I’m on Earth to be a football player.”