In this Monday edition of Niners Daily, we hear from a San Francisco 49ers linebacker who exceeded all expectations throughout his first NFL campaign.
After battling a nagging hamstring injury early in training camp last year, Aaron Lynch first burst onto the scene in August during the 49ers third preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.
Consistently forcing pressure into the backfield, the linebacker amassed three tackles, a sack and two pass breakups.
Over the ensuing four months, Lynch repeatedly showed the 49ers and the rest of the NFL just how big of a steal he was in the fifth round of the draft.
As his role expanded from week to week, Lynch's production continued growing as well.
His final rookie year stat line consisted of 23 tackles, six sacks, four pass deflections and a whopping 17 quarterback hurries.
Lynch attributed his surprise rookie success more to growing up off of the field than anything football-related.
"I matured a lot from college," Lynch said. "Being in the league, I'm taking things a lot more seriously knowing it's my job and it's a business. It's not a playground anymore, and that's really brought me up and made me more of a man."
Much of that maturation process was sped along by the assistance of veterans in the 49ers locker room like Justin Smith and Frank Gore.
"You learn that you always have to give your upmost effort because you're not just doing it for yourself, you're doing it for everybody in the room," Lynch said. "And that's what I really got from those guys, when they went out there, they gave it their all. They put us in a position to win games."
Lynch's efforts on the field in 2014 were noticed around the league, and NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks recently named him one of the most surprising rookie standouts of the year.
"Make no mistake, this was a guy that was a first-round talent but dropped because of character concerns," Brooks said. "He comes into the league and has his life straightened out. You see the athleticism, you see the burst and you see the ability to win 1-on-1 matchups. He became a very effective pass-rusher for the 49ers."
As for his offseason goals, Lynch said he hopes to begin camp in the best possible physical condition to avoid a sophomore slump.
"I just want to get my body in the best shape I can," Lynch said. "I want to be healthy and not have to go through another training camp where I'm pulling hamstrings and trying to keep healthy. So that's my main goal; bring down the body fat and go from there."