One of the most important aspects to an NFL team and their success is the offensive line. Brian Kelly, now the head coach of Notre Dame, is responsible for part of the San Francisco 49ers offensive line’s success and their trip to Super Bowl XLVII.
Back in 2003, Joe Staley was still playing tight end as a freshman for Central Michigan University. Of course, Staley was offered a scholarship from Central Michigan to play tight end. As a senior at Rockford High School, Staley had 24 receptions for 559 yards and seven touchdowns. In his freshman season at Central Michigan, Staley caught only 11 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Staley’s future changed forever between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Head coach Kelly, who took over coaching duties at Central in 2004, called Staley into his office to inform him of a change. The team wanted Staley to switch to an offensive lineman. This change didn’t sit well with Staley, as he recently admitted to crying about the conversation with Kelly and also considered transferring schools.
“I hated blocking. I just wanted to go run downfield and catch passes,” Staley told media at the Super Bowl. Lucky for Staley and the 49ers, he accepted Kelly’s positional change. As a sophomore, Staley started all 11 games at right tackle. The next season Staley moved to left tackle and once again started all 11 games, while also allowing zero quarterback sacks. During his senior season, Staley quickly moved up NFL Draft big boards. Staley was part of a line that helped two dual threat quarterbacks (Kent Smith, Dan Lefevour) post huge numbers.
In the NFL, Staley has started 82 games and helped the 49ers have one of the best lines in all of football. Running back Frank Gore continues to have great statistical seasons every year, rushing for over 1,200 yards the last two seasons. Staley has also been recognized for his excellent blocking skills, being named an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in several seasons.
Who would have imagined Staley as an offensive lineman? This is the same guy who was a state finalist in track and field sprint events. While at Rockford, Staley held the school records for the 200meter dash, 4×100 meter relay and 4×200 meter relay. The 49ers traded to obtain the 28th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft, where they took the former tight end. If Staley gets a Super Bowl win, I’m guessing he should call Kelly to thank him.