Why Kyle Shanahan believed in Raheem Mostert

SANTA CLARA – Raheem Mostert has come a long way since he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2015.

In 2016, after bouncing around rosters, practice squads and the waiver wire for a year and a half, his name appeared as a blip on the transactions page. He joined the practice squad of the 49ers, his seventh team in less than two years. Three seasons on, he’s established himself as a special teams maven and, recently, the team’s most productive running back.

For Mostert, it all came down to finding a coach that believed in him.

“He actually relates to his players,” Mostert said of coach Kyle Shanahan. “His dad (Mike Shanahan)’s players always fought for him and it’s the same thing here. Kyle has instilled that in us. I’m gonna fight for you. I want you to fight for me.”

Mostert’s breakout game in the backfield came last season against the Packers, San Francisco’s upcoming NFC championship opponent. But Mostert remembers the game the week prior — and what happened afterward.

The 49ers were hosting the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5. Entering the game, Mostert had all of seven rushing attempts in his career. He had taken one handoff for no gain earlier that season.

Then, on his first handoff against Arizona — his eighth rushing attempt in three-plus seasons — he fumbled. Patrick Peterson picked up and returned it 49 yards before quarterback C.J. Beathard brought him down inside the 49ers’ red zone.

But Shanahan didn’t write off Mostert. He didn’t relegate him back to special teams (though he still plays an important role there). Shanahan called Mostert into his office after the game for a heart-to-heart.

“He said, ‘Hey look, I’m gonna need you to step up. I’m really counting on you,’” Mostert remembered Friday in front of his locker. “From that point on, I knew he believed in me. Because if he didn’t believe in me, he never would have brought me into his office.”

They had a Monday night game looming against, who else, but the Packers. Mostert rushed for 87 yards on 12 carries — both trouncing his previous career highs.

“From that point on, I was just trying to show him that I got his back,” Mostert said.

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