Mike Purcell took several significant steps forward in his career last fall.
After going undrafted in 2013 and spending much of the ensuing two years on the practice squad, the defensive lineman parlayed a standout exhibition season last August into a spot on the San Francisco 49ers 53-man roster.
Purcell went on to appear in eight games in 2015, including his first three NFL starts. He totaled 11 tackles and a sack – a takedown of Carson Palmer in Week 12.
Yet despite the tangible signs of growth, Purcell was not satisfied.
"It was progress, but there is so much more that I can do," Purcell said in January. "I think I showed the amount of work that I put in the last offseason. So hopefully I can do the same this year and improve even more."
Purcell credited the likes of Ian Williams and Tony Jerod-Eddie for offering advice on how to take the next step in terms of playing time. Williams and Jerod-Eddie also began their careers as undrafted free agents.
"They definitely help a lot," Purcell said. "Especially since they're in the same d-line room with me. They're people I can look up to and if I have questions, I can always ask them.
"It is hard when you're on the practice squad for multiple years, but now it can be seen as a success story."
Michael Wilhoite, Alex Boone, Garrett Celek and L.J. McCray are other examples of undrafted players becoming contributors for the 49ers.
Purcell plans to spend this offseason splitting time between his homes in the Bay Area and Idaho. When at the latter, he trains and spends time with friend and former 49ers teammate Mike Iupati, who lives a half hour away.
"I just have to keep on the same track I'm on right now," Purcell said. "That means watching film and making sure my body is right when it's time to start again.
"I want to show that I'm doing the things I need to do to help this organization win."