George Kittle: Changing the Narrative of the Tight End Position

With a star-studded offense with players such as Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Christian McCaffrey, it's become one of Kyle Shanahan's good problems of having "too many mouths to feed" when it comes to scheming the San Francisco 49ers offense and running up the numbers for each player's end-of-season stat lines.

"If I have one catch a game, I know my fantasy football coach would be really mad at me for that, but it is what it is," tight end George Kittle said. "As long as we're winning games and we're feeding the right guys the ball – I'm never going to get mad if Christian McCaffrey has 20 carries and 10 catches for 300 total yards, I'll never be upset about that because he's such a talented football player.

"It's really fun to be on a team that does have a problem of too many mouths to feed, because coach Shanahan does such a great job of scheming everybody into getting certain plays and it's just really fun to be a part of an offense that has so much talent on it."

On "The Pat McAfee Show," Kittle shared his love for the physicality that comes with playing football. Physicality, in addition to explosiveness, are two important traits for general manager John Lynch and his staff as they work to revamp the 49ers roster each year. Although a majority of NFL stardom comes from making catches and scoring touchdowns, Kittle's favorite aspect of the game is playing hands-on in run and pass blocking.

The tight end's love for diving into the offensive line comes from his childhood, as his father, a former left tackle, taught young-Kittle the importance of influencing a game without having the ball in his hands.

"Back when I was in fifth grade, my dad was our coach in tackle football," Kittle said. "The only drills we did, the entire team would have blocking pads and we'd all do O-line blocking drills. Everybody. Whether you're a running back, quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back, corner, wherever it was, we're all doing O-line drills. He would always tell us, 'You're all going to try your best to play offensive line, but not all of you are going to be good enough to play offensive line and you're going to have to play another position like quarterback, wide receiver or running back. That's okay, we'll still like you, but O-line is the best position in football.' So, that was my mindset growing up.

"I just have the mindset that 'I'm going to love this and I'm going to be better than anyone else at it.' Now, if I'm not getting the ball, I'm going to influence the game in the run game and I'm going to make the guy across from me, his life a living hell... You need me to pass-pro a guy who gets paid $100 million on third down? Bring it. I cannot wait. I can't wait for you to be on my highlight reel where I block you and lock you down because 'no tight end should block a defensive end' is what everybody always says. I take that personally because I can block anybody. Nick Bosa is really difficult to block, but thankfully he's on my team."

Kittle's childhood lessons have stayed with him as he's reached the highest level of the game. So much so, the tight end shared that he often gets more satisfaction from laying a defender down than scoring a touchdown.

"Don't get me wrong, scoring touchdowns is awesome," Kittle said. "It's really fun, and that's what you get paid for in the NFL. But when you can flatback a guy and you feel their exhale, their soul leaving their body, there's not much more of an exciting response. When you tackle a guy and you smoke them... That's an amazing feeling, there's nothing quite like it. Every time I get to do that, I think, 'I'm going to be in their head for a long time and I'm going to have free real estate.'"

Because the tight end position is so dynamic with a variety of many techniques to master, Kittle, alongside Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and former NFL tight end Greg Olsen, created Tight End University in 2021. This year, about 80 current and former NFL players have joined Kittle in Nashville, Tennessee to learn from one another and refine their specialized tight end skills before the 2023 season begins.

"I always do a run blocking class because I want to make an emphasis of it," Kittle said. "It picks us all up and allows us to keep escalating our market (as tight ends). I want everybody to play at a high level. We're going to do a lot of O-line stuff, I'm very excited for that, some footwork, techniques, set-up, hands, aiming point, first and second step and just being aggressive and violent."

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