Every year 80 players are allowed to be on NFL rosters at the start of training camp and the goal for everyone is to earn their way onto the final 53. Throughout camp, 49ers.com will highlight some of our newcomers and their Road to the Roster. Here’s the first installment of our Road to the Roster series with 49ers linebacker
Keaton Kristick had made the two-hour drive from his Scottsdale, Ariz., home to Flagstaff, Ariz., countless times, but this trip was different.
The 6-foot-3, 234-pound linebacker was on his way up to Northern Arizona University to watch his younger brother’s spring football game, but the next several years of his life were in limbo as well.
While Kristick was traveling north on Interstate-17, the NFL Draft was taking place more than 2,400 miles away. Kristick’s value was being mulled over by 32 teams, and since he was on the road, Kristick had to rely on the internet on his phone for draft updates.
The phone calls started coming during the fifth round, but they were mostly empty promises. Several teams told him they were going to draft him, but that call never came.
“It was kind of a bummer,” Kristick said. “I’d see guys go ahead of me and I’d think, ‘Oh man, that guy got picked? I felt like I was better than him.’ It was somewhat of a nervous day for me. I don’t know if I ever clicked the refresh button on my phone so many times.”
And after a while all that refreshing caught up to Kristick’s phone. Just as the draft came to a close, his phone died and he was cut off from the football world.
“I was only going to be gone for the day so I didn’t bring my charger to plug it in,” he remembered. “I probably should have planned that one better.”
Even though he was phone-less and team-less, Kristick felt somewhat relieved after the draft ended – the suspense was over. He actually laid down and took a nap.
Meanwhile, NFL coaches were scrambling to get a hold of the highly-touted free agent. Just because nobody selected the Oregon State product didn’t mean nobody wanted him.
“Next thing we know my mom’s cell phone is ringing all over the place with coaches calling for me,” Kristick said.
When Kristick woke up he weighed his options. Although several teams were vying for his services, selecting the 49ers was a pretty easy choice.
“I’ve always liked the 49ers and I thought it would be amazing to be on this team with so much tradition,” he said. “I felt like this was a team that would give me a real shot at making the squad and I felt I would fit in well here.”
After reaching an agreement with the 49ers, Kristick did something most people in his position wouldn’t even consider – he went back to school.
“I think it’s important to finish school because you never know how the football thing is going to go,” he said. “Plus I’d rather get it done now because I don’t want to have to go back later in life.”
Aside from going back to OSU for a couple of classes, Kristick also got to work with the coaching staff that had prepared him for the NFL.
In his four years with the Beavers, Kristick played in 50 games and made 27 starts. His senior season he earned first-team All-Pac 10 honors after leading the team with 95 tackles to go along with his two interceptions, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
“I play with a non-stop motor,” Kristick said. “I just keep going.”
But if he wants to keep going at the next level, Kristick knows he has to prove himself during training camp.
Learning from Pro Bowlers
“I think I’m ready for it,” Kristick said. “I’m here, now I just have to make the most of my opportunities. I know there won’t be a ton of chances, but I have to show the coaches what I can do when I get in there.
“It’s make or break time.”