San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida caught the attention of many following his preseason debut on Friday against the Kansas City Chiefs. But before he received the opportunity to dance under the lights of Arrowhead Stadium, it's been an uphill climb for the undrafted free agent.
During his sophomore and junior season at Georgia Southern University, Breida rushed for a total of 3,094 yards and 34 touchdowns, leading the nation in yards per carry (7.6 and 8.68).
However, Breida's production dropped immensely in his following campaign. Breida rushed for 646 yards in 2016, and was limited to just 3 touchdowns.
Breida's decline in his senior campaign cost him an invite to the NFL Combine. But his lofty performance at his NFL Pro Day (4.37-second 40-yard dash, 42-inch vertical jump, 11-foot-2 broad jump and 23 reps on the bench press) caught the attention of the 49ers.
"I believe a lot of teams looked at my last year and didn't look at my previous two years," Bredia said. "They looked at my last season only because I had 600 yards rushing. But they didn't dig in deep to see why. The 49ers believed in me, (49ers run game specialist) Mike McDaniels and (49ers running back coach) Bobby Turner, they knew what type of runner I was. So, I definitely came in with a chip on my shoulder and wanted to prove to everybody that I belong in the NFL.
Enjoy the best images from the San Francisco 49ers road victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
"It was very frustrating, but still at the same time it was very humbling for me. Helped me know I have to work for everything. Not everything will be given to you. I feel like I got put in this position for a reason, and I'm happy to be here."
Breida has impressed throughout the first two weeks of training camp. He continued to show well in the 49ers first preseason game. Debuting as the second running back behind veteran Pierre Garçon, Breida set the bar for the 49ers backfield.
Breida's 26 snaps was the most of any 49ers running back. He finished the game with 11 carries for 40 yards, and 25 of those yards came after contact. His six forced missed tackles were the most of any NFL running back in Week 1 of the preseason. Breida's friday night performance named him to Pro Football Focus' "Team if the Week".
The inside-outside tandem of Breida and fellow rookie Joe Williams racked up yards in the second half against the Chiefs. Most of Williams' runs went to the outside while Breida found his niche as a power back rushing between the tackles.
"A lot of my long runs from Georgia Southern came from up the middle - my power runs, inside zone. So, I love running up the middle actually more than I do outside."
Still, Breida finds himself amid one of the deepest positions on the 49ers roster behind veterans Hyde and Tim Hightower. He'll have another chance to make a bid for a roster spot when the 49ers host the Denver Broncos at Levi's® Stadium on Saturday.
"Everyone here is good. Everyone here is fast," Breida added. "Coach Shanahan's offense is not an easy offense to learn. I'm getting better at it each day, and I've got to just keep improving."