Third-round pick Ji'Ayir Brown, along with the rest of the San Francisco 49ers 2023 draft class, undrafted free agent signings and tryout players, spent the weekend in Santa Clara for the team's rookie minicamp. Over the course of the last few days, rookies put pen to paper on contracts, met in-person with coaches and teammates, took headshots and participated in their first workout with the 49ers.
"I haven't stopped smiling," Brown said. "It's been an amazing past two weeks. I'm still in this crazy moment. I was smiling all day on the field today (Friday) during the walkthrough."
It's was a quick introduction to life at the pro level, and for Brown, a continuation of the whirlwind that's been going on since Day 2 of the draft when he was selected 87th-overall. The 49ers needed outside help to ensure they'd be able to lock down their consensus draft prospect late in Round 3, and thanks to a carefully curated trade with the Minnesota Vikings, were able to make it happen.
"I got the call before they traded up," Brown commented. "They told me they were trading up, and then it was happening simultaneously. They said it was happening, and I'm like, 'That's crazy.' Everybody was screaming around me, so I couldn't even really hear the coach on the phone."
The safety was greeted by general manager John Lynch, head coach Shanahan and CEO Jed York before defensive coordinator Steve Wilks closed out the call. Wilks took the opportunity on that call to highlight the important connection formed between him and the rookie safety during his top 30 visit ahead of the draft. He made reference to it again on Friday in his introductory press conference.
"His tape just jumped off at you. He just makes plays," Wilks said. "We do a huge thing here where we bring our 30 in all at the same time. We have dinner, Top Golf and as you get into a social setting, I think you have more conversations.
"He just started growing on me, the conversation that we're having, his dedication to the game, he's mature. He sees it with a different lens and I said, 'This guy right here can be the future for us.'"
The connection was very much mutual, and ultimately, gave Brown hope he'd eventually wind up in The Bay.
"Me and Coach Wilks, me and John Lynch, it's just been a bond from the jump," Brown said. "I was like, 'If I get to San Fran, man, I love San Fran,' and then I end up going to San Fran. I knew as soon as I slipped to the third round, I said, 'The kind of connection we had, they have to come get me.'"
The foundation of that bond came down to a particular conversation with Wilks.
"It was almost like a father-son talk," Brown shared. "He's a great guy. He has a vision for this team that I follow. He gave me some words of advice that I will forever carry with me."
The vision for Brown involves him eventually working his way up to a starting safety role, but for now, the rookie will get to learn the ins and outs of the position at the next level from All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga and veteran Tashaun Gipson Sr.
Rookies can now fully participate in the team's Phase 2 of offseason programming as they continue ramping up for training camp.