SANTA CLARA — The numbers C.J. Beathard put up the past two seasons as Iowa quarterback were far from staggering, especially in this age of high-powered spread offenses in college football.
Beathard said at times it was frustrating watching other quarterbacks put up more prolific numbers, but the tutelage he received in a pro-style offense under coach Kirk Ferentz and coordinator Greg Davis is what made him attractive to the San Francisco 49ers in the draft last week.
“I think it really benefited me coming from a pro-style offense,” Beathard said Thursday on the eve of his first practice as a pro. “Being under center and actually calling a play in a huddle. Nowadays, there’s so many colleges where they don’t have to do it. I just thank Coach Ferentz and Coach Davis for doing that.”
That was a reason why San Francisco traded up to take Beathard in the third round last week with the 104th overall pick. With a roster lacking a long-term answer at quarterback, coach Kyle Shanahan said Beathard was the one quarterback he wanted in his first draft as a head coach, calling him a natural thrower.
That confidence wasn’t lost on Beathard.
“That means a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to me that they believe in me and trust me like that. I love what Coach Shanahan does.”
Beathard, the grandson of Super Bowl-winning executive Bobby Beathard, threw for 4,738 yards in two seasons as starter at Iowa.
He had 34 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions during those two seasons, helping lead the Hawkeyes to a 12-0 regular season and Rose Bowl berth in 2015 and an 8-5 record last year.
He showed his toughness by playing through a sports hernia injury for almost all of 2015, a trait he learned watching players like Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau when Bobby Beathard was general manager in San Diego.
“I wanted to be as much like those guys as I could,” he said. “Those guys are as tough as it comes.”
That earned him the respect of his teammate in college — and NFL coaches like Shanahan.
Tight end George Kittle, a teammate at Iowa and a fellow 49ers draft pick, said the numbers don’t begin to describe Beathard’s impact.
“He basically willed us to 20 wins in two years,” Kittle said. “That’s pretty impressive. He put the team on his back multiple times in games we might not have been playing well.”
Beathard gets his start with the 49ers at rookie minicamp on Friday as part of a rookie class that includes first-round defensive stars Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster.
The Niners took Thomas third overall after trading down a spot and then traded up from the second round to get Foster 31st overall despite ranking him third on their draft board.There have been questions about Foster’s health, with some speculation that he will need a second rotator cuff surgery on his injured right shoulder.
Shanahan told the team’s flagship radio station KNBR on Thursday that team doctors felt good about Foster’s health and don’t think he will need another operation.
“I just look at it as, you go with what your doctors say. And then you always think about, ‘All right, what about the worst-case scenario? What if this is true?’ The worst-case scenario is, the shoulder doesn’t heal correctly and you got to do it again,” Shanahan told the station. “When you have to do it again, you got to get another surgery, so it’d be tough to play this year and you’d end up having him the next year.”