New beginnings are always a bit easier when you have a familiar face in the same boat. Former Iowa teammates C.J. Beathard and George Kittle should benefit from coming to the Bay Area together for the start of their NFL careers.
The San Francisco 49ers took Beathard, Iowa's starting quarterback for the past two seasons, in the third round (Pick No. 104) and then took his tight end in the fifth round (Pick No. 146). To learn more about the pair of Hawkeyes, we went to the team's longtime head coach.
Kirk Ferentz, who has been leading Iowa's program since 1999, began by calling Beathard an underrated prospect during the pre-draft process.
"I thought he was undersold by the experts," Ferentz said. "C.J. is just a tremendous football player. We've had some great quarterbacks here, and none have been better than him. All you have to do is look back a year ago when we were 12-0. He's a tremendous leader. He's got great game toughness and showed great composure."
The coach added that he made the decision to go with Beathard prior to the 2015 season. An undefeated campaign set the bar high for an encore in 2016. Between a weaker supporting cast and a slew of injuries, including to Beathard himself, the quarterback underwhelmed from a statistical standpoint.
Beathard threw for 17 touchdowns in both seasons, but his passing yards dipped from 2,809 to 1,929. Ferentz insisted that the quarterback's intangibles never wavered through the adversity.
"He led our team," he added. "Our team had great respect for him, and they responded to him. I think that says a lot about how he goes about his work and does things. He's got a really live arm. He's got really good feet. I think his upside is tremendous."
Perhaps Beathard's greatest asset entering the NFL is that he is coming from a pro-style system at Iowa. That's not something many college quarterbacks can say nowadays.
"He understands protections, he understands how to change protections, and he understands how to use the run game," Ferentz said. "We put a lot of responsibility on C.J.'s shoulders from Day 1, and he handled it well."
As for Kittle, it was a family connection that landed the tight end at Iowa. Kittle was an unheralded high-school prospect and planned on attending Weber State. Ferentz, who coached Kittle's dad Bruce at Iowa way back in 1981, found George at the end of the recruiting process.
"He developed into a great blocker. He had a great attitude towards it," Ferentz said. "He did a really nice job for us. He's a guy who can run and do some things well in the passing game."
So what were Ferentz's parting words of wisdom to his former players?
"I told them it's like going from high school to college," the coach said. "It doesn't matter what you've done because means nothing now. The best part about the NFL is that it's so competitive that you get judged based on what you do and what your production is. I told them that they didn't get there by accident. Pay attention, work hard, say something when you're asked and improve every day."
Beathard and Kittle will report to 49ers headquarters on Thursday along with the rest of the team's first-year players for rookie minicamp.