San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has had a stellar 2023 season. The talent has always been there. Sometimes, the player themselves aren’t aware of the talent they possess.
Aiyuk recently appeared on Arik Armstead’s “Third and Long” podcast. Armstead called Aiyuk a star in the league. Armstead is from Sacramento. Aiyuk went to a Junior College called Sierra, which is in Rocklin, California, about 20-25 minutes from Sacramento.
The two discussed Aiyuk’s upbringing, how he was recruited by the University of Alabama. Aiyuk said 15 minutes after he signed the papers to commit to the Sun Devils, the Crimson Tide wanted Aiyuk to come play defensive back.
Armstead shared a similar story about how Alabama wanted him to play offensive line. Arik, who played both ways in high school, had zero interest in leaving California to play football in the south. They told a story about how when Oregon (Armstead’s alma mater) played Arizona State, and Aiyuk beat Deommodore Lenoir for a touchdown.
Here’s a fun fact that you’ll learn from the podcast: Aiyuk, who is 6’0”, has longer arms than Armstead, who is a towering 6’7”.
Aiyuk would go on to talk about who he believes the best receivers in the NFL are, his mindset when the ball is in his hands, and when he began to gain confidence. Here’s Aiyuk’s answer about gaining confidence during his NFL career:
“Realistically, probably the end of last year. Fully, affirmatively, probably this last training camp. It’s different. You come into the league thinking that you can make plays here and there. Everybody knows when it’s for real. Not spurts here or spurts there. Probably training camp this year and headed into this season.
After the end of last year, going for 1,000, and feeling like I had way more. Like there was so much more that I could get better at. That gave me a whole bunch of confidence.”
Armstead said him and Aiyuk had an important conversation after OTAs about how you need to take care of yourself from the time off between OTAs and training camp. Aiyuk explained what he did during that span.
Aiyuk said that he had a team that he put together — he named four or five different people, presumably speed/athletic trainers — who helped him during the offseason. Armstead said Aiyuk was noticeably different at the start of training camp.
Aiyuk’s “I feel like if you ask me, I feel like for sure I’m one of them” when mentioning the top wideouts was cool to hear. He’s been that good this season, and he deserves the recognition he’s getting. Armstead is in the same boat.
Aiyuk named his top five receivers, after clarifying he’s one of the top five, but wanted to make a list without him in it. He quickly changed it to, “I’ll just name five guys I like.” Here’s Aiyuk’s list:
“Of course, Davante [Adams]. Cooper Kupp. He’s a guy that I started to like a lot more. He’s always open. [Stefon] Diggs. I like Diggs. Those three guys right there. That’s my category for getting spicy. Getting active. Then you have the Deebo Samuel’s, Ja’Marr Chase. Those guys that get busy after they catch it. Tee Higgins. I know there’s some that I’m forgetting. But those are the guys that come to my head first. Justin Jefferson.”
It’s a fun conversation to listen to. Check out the link above to hear the entire interview.