The last time Mike Purcell scored a touchdown, he was playing fullback during his freshman year at Highlands Ranch High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Purcell ended that scoring drought on Sunday, as the San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman found the end zone once again. Midway through the second quarter, the 300-plus pound lineman made an athletic interception of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dustin Vaughan at the line of scrimmage and returned it 37 yards for the touchdown.
"When I got it in my hands, I took off running," Purcell said. "The rest is kind of a blur."
Head coach Jim Tomsula couldn't help but smile after the game when asked about the play. After spending the last eight seasons as the 49ers defensive line coach, he was happy to see one of his guys get his hands on the ball.
Giving Purcell his proper dues didn't stop the head coach from having fun at his lineman's expense though.
"How about my man, huh?" Tomsula said. "A pick-six. … Michael did a nice job. He was there, and he made the play. He made the play and he took off. That's as fast as I've seen him run I'll tell you that."
Purcell said his favorite part of the play was being able to show off that speed Tomsula eluded to. And on the 37-yard scamper across the goal line, the lineman broke two separate tackles with some impressive open-field running.
The former Wyoming Cowboy said all he was thinking about was not getting taken down by the quarterback.
"Definitely not," Purcell said. "That's the last person I want to get tackled by, or to get caught by an offensive lineman."
Purcell's teammates went wild on the play as well. The nose tackle had a humorous recollection of what transpired after he scored. After all, the extra point and kickoff served as the only time Purcell had before he was back on the field in the defensive huddle.
"They were ecstatic," Purcell said. "I could hardly catch my breath. It took me a while to get off the field, and when I got off the field it took me a while to get to the bench, and then I had to go right back out there."
The second-year defensive lineman kept the touchdown ball, and it serves as a tangible sign of his progress this offseason. As an undrafted rookie, Purcell spent most of the 2014 season on San Francisco's practice squad before being called up to the active roster for the team's final two games.
Now with back-to-back strong preseason outings under his belt – he also played an integral role in the 49ers goal-line stand against the Houston Texans – Purcell is attempting to stake his claim to a spot on the final 53-man roster.
"I hope so," Purcell said. "That's one thing Jimmy T. says, to get paid to play football is No. 1, and No. 2 is to get paid to play football here. That's my goal.
"It feels like the hard work is paying off, slowly but surely."