How Did 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt End up at Samford?

To date, just six Samford players have ever been selected in the NFL Draft.

Located in Homewood, Ala., with an undergrad enrollment of roughly 3,000 students, the FCS school is not quite in the same league as the FBS powerhouse programs in the state (Alabama and Auburn).

So when Jaquiski Tartt was taken 46th overall earlier this month by the San Francisco 49ers, he became the highest player ever drafted from Samford, which plays in the Southern Conference.

But just how did a second-round talent like Tartt slip through the recruiting cracks?

We spoke with Tartt's high school coach, Fred Riley, to find the answer.

Tartt didn't play football his first three years at Davidson High School, instead starting for the basketball team. Then, during the second semester of his junior year, Tartt's friends – including 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward – pursuaded him to try football.

"We used to kid him about basketball," Riley said. "I told him, 'Turn the TV on and see how many 6-foot-2 power forwards are playing in the NBA. Then turn it on and see how many 6-foot-2 safeties are playing in the NFL.'

"Some of the basketball guys are tough enough to make the transition and some of them aren't. We always messed with him but never put any pressure on him. Then, like a week before spring practice, he came out and said, 'Coach, I'm going to give it a try.'"

Although Riley's coaching staff brought Tartt along slowly, they recognized his potential from the start of the experiement.

"We knew what kind of athlete he was from watching him play basketball, but we certainly didn't want to scare him off," Riley said. "So we taught him the basic fundamentals. Jimmie was a big help there. But it was obvious that he wasn't afraid. He would hit you, and we'd be like, 'Wow, we've got something here with this guy.'

"It was just about figuring out all the things that go with playing back there besides running around and hitting people. It took him until about halfway through his senior year that he really started catching on."

Samford began recruiting Tartt relatively early in the process, surprising given that he had only been playing prep football for a few months. Once Tartt began to show the football IQ to match his size and speed, Samford figured it would eventually lose him to a bigger program.

With the 46th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected DB Jaquiski Tartt out of Samford.

"Samford really didn't think they'd be able to keep him because his body of work on film was so good in the last half of the season," Riley said. "But with Division I recruiting the way it is, everyone had already tied up all their scholarships. It was done and the Division I schools were already starting to recruit for the next year. Next thing you know it's national signing day, and he's signing with Samford."

Does Riley think Tartt would have been a blue-chip recruit if he had began his high school football career a year or two sooner?

"Oh yeah," Riley said. "He would've been an SEC guy without question. He had all the tools to be an SEC guy without a doubt.

"But they had nobody at work on him and in power five conference recruiting, you can't really get a scholarship based on your senior film. It's already done based on sophomore and junior exposure. No question he could've played at Alabama or Auburn if he would've come out earlier."

Tartt went on to tally 277 tackles, six interceptions and 20 pass breakups in a college career that included three straight All-America honors. Riley said Tartt's ability will continue to grow exponentially when nurtured by an NFL coaching staff.

"You can see no end to his development," Riley said. "He has the size, the speed and the strength. His upside is tremendous."

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