George Kittle: From fifth-round pick to Pro Bowler

The Big Game

SANTA CLARA (KRON) — George Kittle, the people’s tight end.

But how exactly did Kittle go from “he wasn’t much on anyone’s radar” to the dominant force that he is?

The 26-year-old was born in Madison, Wisconsin and moved to Iowa at an early age. He spent a lot of his time playing sports with his older sister, Emma.

His family says Emma used her size and age advantage to dominate George growing up. But that changed as he got older, bigger and stronger.

Kittle decided to stay in the state and commit to the University of Iowa to play college football. He played at Iowa from 2012 to 2016, but didn’t really shine until the 2015 season.

He scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 43-yard reception from quarterback C.J. Beathard, yes the same C.J. Beathard that plays for the Niners.

He had 20 receptions for 290 receiving yards and a total of six touchdowns in the 2015 season.

Kittle had his best statistical game during his senior season. Against North Dakota State, he had five receptions for 110 receiving yards. He finished that season with 22 receptions for 314 receiving yards and four receiving TDs.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 11: George Kittle #85 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts to winning the NFC Divisional Round Playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium on January 11, 2020 in Santa Clara, California. The San Francisco 49ers won 27-10. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

In total, he completed his collegiate career with 48 receptions for 737 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Kittle was a top tight end prospect. He was one of 19 collegiate tight ends who received an invitation to the NFL Combine.

He was projected to be a third or fourth round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by experts and scouts.

So when Kyle Shanahan and his staff noticed Kittle still sitting there in the fifth round, he took action. The 49ers head coach said he was shocked Kittle had not been picked yet.

“We had him as who we thought was the best tight end, or one of the best tight ends in the draft,” Shanahan said. “But he wasn’t much on anyone’s radar so we assumed he was going to be a third round guy and we had to go a different direction in that round. We were just shocked that we was just sitting there in the fifth.”

The San Francisco 49ers selected Kittle in the fifth round, 146th overall.

On Oct. 8, 2017 he caught his first NFL touchdown, along with collecting seven receptions for 83 yards in a 26-23 OT loss to the Colts.

The 6-foot-4 tight end finished his rookie season with 43 receptions for 515 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games.

The following season, Kittle set an NFL record for most receiving yards in a season by a TE with 1,377.

He completed the 2018-19 season with 1,377 yards.

Fast-forward to present day — 2019-20 season, the 49ers are 13-3 and competing in the NFC Championship for a trip to Super Bowl LIV.

He is not only an absolute animal on the field, but fun to watch as well.

Even if you’re not rooting for the Niners, you love to watch him perform.

This season, he reached 2,000 career receiving yards in 33 career regular season games, which ranks 3rd in NFL history as the fastest tight end to reach 2,000+ career receiving yards.

Since entering the league in 2017, Kittle ranks 2nd in the NFL in receiving yards among all TEs.

The numbers and accolades go on and on, but as Coach Shanahan says — stats don’t tell you much.

“Stats don’t tell you much, it’s how you move,” Shanahan said.

How will Kittle and the Niners move for Sunday’s big game? Hopefully, a lot better now that Kittle’s ankle is feeling better.

He didn’t participate in practice earlier this week which sent out a brief scare. But he returned to practice the following day and said he felt “fabulous”.

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