With the 29th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected North Carolina DT Kentwan Balmer.
Balmer started all twelve games at right defensive tackle last year, ranking second on the team with 59 tackles including 3.5 sacks for minus 26 yards, 9.5 stops for losses of 44 yards and four quarterback pressures. Balmer was named to the Super Sleeper Team choice by The NFL Draft Report. The recipient of the team's James Southerland Award (team captain), also earned second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.
Defensive tackle was a relatively new position for Balmer, who played at both left and right end during his first three seasons with the Tar Heels, making him a good fit for the 49ers 3-4 defense where he could potentially work at either end or tackle.
"He's got versatility and so we can use him along the line," said 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. "He plays hard. He's a good run stopper, and has great takeoff and burst. He's a big cat who can move with a lot of upside, and that's hard to find anymore."
Balmer spoke briefly with head coach Mike Nolan and Manusky immediately upon being drafted, and said he'll be ready to fill in where needed.
"It doesn't matter," said Balmer. "I'll go back and try to change if they want me to. I'm just going to go work hard and compete. I think that's the main thing. Everything else will work itself out. I'm hungry and I'm just ready to get out there and start playing some ball."
In 42 games at North Carolina, Balmer started 23 times. He collected 93 tackles (55 solo) with seven sacks for minus-52 yards, 17 stops for losses of 79 total yards and 10 quarterback pressures. He also deflected three passes and blocked a pair of kicks.
Families of those who get drafted in the NFL are usually quick to convert to fans of their new team, but as it turns out, Balmer already had a strong 49ers devotee in his family. Although Balmer grew up in North Carolina, his father has been a long-time 49ers fan and as coincidence would have it, his dad was wearing a 49ers hat when his son was picked.
"Being a first round just goes to show that it's worth all of the hard work," said Balmer. "My father was a big 49ers fan back in the 90s so I watched a lot of 49ers games so I never thought this would happen."