49ers Drawing Success From Both Sides of the Iowa Rivalry

San Francisco 49ers, George Kittle

Getty Current San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle celebrating at Iowa.

The San Francisco 49ers have found exceptional success in drafting players on the third day of the NFL draft, especially when said draftees played their college ball in the Hawkeye State of Iowa. As improbable as it may sound, two of the Niners’ top offensive players, Brock Purdy and George Kittle, not only had to wait until the Saturday of their respective drafts to hear their names called, but have since developed into two of the key cogs in Kyle Shanahan’s team, playing a big part in their eight-game win streak and 11-4 overall record.

Asked about how the transition from playing with Jimmy Garoppolo to Purdy has gone for the four-time Pro Bowler, Kittle complimented his on-field efforts before giving his quarterback a hard time for which Iowa college he decided to attend.

“He told me he was going to feed me, and that’s what he’s doing,” Kittle said. “He’s just getting the ball to us, he’s great with the football, allows guys to run with it, he’s super savvy in the backfield, makes guys miss. His confidence is through the roof right now, and I don’t know why it wouldn’t be. He’s playing really well, and I think he has a really good grasp of this offense.”

“I will say, if he didn’t go to Iowa State, I think he would’ve led me on that last play, and it would’ve been a touchdown, but we’ll let that one slide, because it’s Christmas, but bless his heart, he’s playing at such a high level.”

Kittle is correct, at least in regards to the first part of his statement; Purdy has been playing fantastically since being inserted into the game against the Miami Dolphins in relief of Garoppolo and has become one of only four rookie quarterbacks since 1950 to throw for multiple touchdowns in each of their first three starts, joining Dan Marino, Jay Cutler, and Marcus Mariota in the club, according to Nick Wagoner of ESPN.

Still, Purdy wasn’t going to take Kittle’s slander of Iowa State lying down, as he counter-punched his tight end during his own media availability session.

Brock Purdy Doesn’t Want to Make a Hawkeye Look Too Good

Asked about what it’s like to play with Kittle during his own interview after the game, Purdy sang his favorite target’s praises before giving him a hard time for his own college choice.

“Yeah, I think he just, he makes my job easy. He wins the man-to-man matchups, obviously, like, his speed and everything, you get the dude the ball, he’ll take off. George is extremely explosive, more than people think, and he does a great job with the yards after the catch, and that’s where my mindset’s at, like, alright, whatever play we have drawn up, I’m gonna go through my progression, but I know that if I get the ball to George, it could be an explosive (play).

“So, I’m extremely fortunate to have him by my side, and wish I would’ve had him catch that third touchdown, I threw it a little short, but just can’t get a Hawkeye too many touchdowns in a game.”

Did Kittle and Purdy script this routine like the first few snaps of a game? According to Kittle, the answer to that question is yes, they did exchange some Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series beef in the locker room before they went to the podium for their respective interviews, but just because one decided to play his college ball in Iowa and the other chose to his talents to Ames doesn’t mean they don’t have mutual respect and admiration. According to Purdy, that couldn’t be further from the case.

The 49ers’ Iowa Products Like Playing Together

For all of the back and forth between the two collegiate Iowa products following San Francisco’s Christmas Eve victory, it’s clear Purdy is happy to have Kittle on the field with him each week and in the locker room as well.

“Yeah, I mean just Kittle’s energy and what he brings to the team every single day what he just tells the team and stuff in terms of keeping everything loose,” Shanahan said. “I feel like when times we feel sort of uptight and whatnot, Kittle’s like the guy to put a smile on your face and say ‘hey, we’re good enough,’ you know, that kind of thing, and so, very fortunate to have him in our locker room.

“He does bring energy and good vibes to everyone, and honestly, I do feel like he gets us back and into a zone of playing well, so that’s what he does, and I think he’s the best in the NFL with just his personality and everything like that too, so we love George.”

While it’s never easy for a team to make two quarterback changes 16 weeks into a season when they are expected to make a deep playoff run, these sort of deepening interpersonal relationships, especially between college rivals, are the key to building the sort of winning culture Purdy has complimented in the past.

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