SANTA CLARA — Taylor Mays finally had that conversation with Pete Carroll.
Their father/son relationship seemed to go south on draft day, when the new Seahawks coach drafted another safety, Texas’ Earl Thomas, instead of his star from USC. Mays went to the 49ers in Round 2 and immediately complained that Carroll had misled him about what he needed to do to become a first-round pick.
Last month, the two finally spoke by phone.
“It was just nice to finally, officially clear the air — even though I knew there was nothing wrong, and he knew there was nothing wrong — to actually just say it to each other,” Mays said. “That was nice.”
Now the rookie has turned his attention to a few other details, like learning the techniques and responsibilities of an NFL safety, and convincing his 49ers coaches he is ready to play.
From all reports, Mays has been one of the star students of training camp, soliciting advice from coaches and veteran players on the field, and logging extra hours in the film room. If a play fools him in the morning, he’ll look at the film himself before the secondary watches as a group.
A stunning combination of speed and brawn — Mays was one of the fastest players at the 2010 scouting combine though he goes about 6-foot-3, 230 pounds — he was something of an underachiever at Southern Cal. The 49ers are convinced that had more to do with his role than his effort.
“He’s always the guy at the end of the meeting sitting in there and asking questions when everybody else leaves,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said Thursday. “That’s always a good sign. He’s a perfectionist. You can see that already. That’s something I don’t think you can ever judge when a kid is coming out, but I love his heart. I love his desire and his ‘want’ to be good.”
Certainly, Mays had a lot of ground to make up. At USC he routinely played 20, even 30 yards off the line of scrimmage. He was a punisher more than a true defensive back, and his movement was all in the forward direction.