Former Cardinal Newman offensive lineman Al Netter's dream came true Saturday, when he signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers, the team he's rooted for almost his entire life.
Netter, a standout tackle for Northwestern who played in every Wildcats' game for the past four seasons, went undrafted but signed with the 49ers after the draft was complete.
"It's very cool to come back to my hometown team — I've been a Niners' fan since I was a little kid," Netter said by phone on Saturday evening.
Yet Netter's longtime dream of playing for the 49ers wasn't the main reason he chose San Francisco — he was seeking a good fit, a place where he had a high probability of making the team, and a strong coaching staff that would help him develop his skills.
Late in the draft 49ers offensive line coach Tim Drevno called Netter and said San Francisco "was done drafting offensive lineman" but that the team was still very interested in him.
Netter said he heard from about 10 other teams, which illustrates the silver lining of not being drafted: If you're a talented player, even after seven rounds of selecting draft picks teams will contact you and you can make a choice.
Ultimately, Netter didn't have to think too hard about where to sign. He spoke briefly with head coach Jim Harbaugh, who let Netter know "everyone" in the 49ers' organization "really wanted him."
"I didn't get to play with Coach Harbaugh in college," Netter said, "but now I hope to play for him" in the NFL.
Netter, who grew up in Rohnert Park, says he's preparing for the leap in skill level from the NCAA to the NFL. Players are "a lot faster, much stronger, and everything is much more precise," he said.
Netter realizes it's unlikely he'd get much playing time as a rookie but said the 49ers are good at developing offensive lineman. "That sold me," he said.
But naturally he plans to keep working out and come into camp "ready to compete" and prepared to "work as hard as possible."
Going into the draft, Netter was projected as a sixth- or seventh-round draft choice. He said watching the last rounds of the draft made for "a long day" and that he was "a little disappointed" he wasn't chosen.
"The day didn't go exactly as planned," Netter said, "but in the end, it worked out perfectly."