Editor's note: This is Ikaika's first article with the 49ersHub. Welcome him to the team! You can follow him on Twitter @IkaikaValeria. - Akash
S Lorenzo Jerome and RB Matt Breida weren’t the only undrafted free-agent finds for the 49ers. San Francisco signed WR Kendrick Bourne, from Eastern Washington, following the 2017 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-1, 203 pound receiver had a productive career at EWU. He finished his collegiate career with 211 receptions, 3,130 yards, and hauled in 27 touchdowns. Those are impressive numbers, but I sure you’ve never heard of him until your phone buzzed with the 49ers' UDFA list after the draft.
Get to know Bourne from his own words from his interview with Joe Fann, 49ers Senior Reporter. “I’m a competitive athlete. I’m a humble guy and a hard worker. I thrive in my route running. I’m a good separator. You’re not going to get a lot of space in the NFL, defensive backs are so good. I’m quicker than fast, and so I feel like I can get out of my breaks quicker than others.”
I’m sure you’ve heard of his highly touted teammate and Rams' third-round pick, WR Cooper Kupp. Bourne sat in Kupp’s shadow during his time at EWU, but he called it, “humbling” and “taught me to not be big headed and play for my team.” One surprising fact is that Bourne was just as important to Eastern Washington’s high flying no huddle offense as Kupp. They formed one of the most dynamic duos in FCS history. They combined for 481 receptions, 9,594 yards, and 100 touchdowns over the span of four years together.
Due to the NFL rule that prohibits rookies from joining offseason programs until classes at their college have ended. Bourne had to make a name for himself during the 49ers last day of organized team activities. He established himself early as a smooth route runner with soft hands. Kyle Shanahan put it in his own words, “He’s got a natural ability to separate and he’s got good hands.”
Bourne’s ability to separate from defensive backs were on full display during the 49ers first preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He hauled in a 46-yard touchdown reception and then on the two-point conversion, he out jumped the Chiefs DB for an impressive fade route to tie the game. He finished the game with four receptions, 88 yards, and one touchdown.
He’s caught the 49ers coaching staff eyes by his YAC ability. “Kendrick is the most underrated receiver I have coached. His yards after catch rank among the best in the country in any college division”, said EWU receivers coach, Nick Edwards.
That trait is what earned him a roster spot over Jeremy Kerley and others. Everyone thought his ceiling was the 10-player practice squad, but his calling is much higher. His potential in Shanahan’s offense is one to watch.