Kyle Shanahan’s career as a wide receiver at the University of Texas was derailed by a fateful evening walk with his dog that left him with a nine-inch scar. His trajectory shifted into coaching, where he became the youngest coordinator in the NFL at age 28 and rose to his current position as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
One of his collegiate opponents, Texas Tech wide receiver Wes Welker, stayed in an on-field role but rose to similar heights. Undrafted and undersized, Welker led the league in receptions three times as a New England Patriot and earned five Pro Bowl nods.
Shanahan officially added Welker to his staff on Wednesday. The 37-year-old, who spent the past two seasons as an offensive assistant with the Houston Texans, will draw on his expertise to serve as the 49ers wide receivers coach.
“If you can find somebody who [played the position] and you feel they’re prepared from a coaching standpoint, that’s kind of the best of both worlds,” Shanahan said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, per NESN. “Wes, I’ve known just hanging out and meeting him over the years. I’ve never worked with him or anything, but he’s one of my favorite players of all time just watching him from afar and what he did.
“I used to play against him in college when he was at [Texas] Tech and just watching how he made it and the way he made it. That’s a guy who not only was really talented but made it because of what’s upstairs also and how he developed.”
Shanahan noted Welker had two difficult years in Houston on the traditional quality-control route under his belt and was ready to put in the hours. Asked whether Welker’s experience as a player influenced his decision to hire the former All-Pro, Shanahan said “No.”
He acknowledged former players can relate to current stars, but pointed out a person hired solely on that credential might not connect for longer than the first week.
“A guy will listen to a guy just because they remember what he looked like on TV,” Shanahan said. “But, once they realize that they can’t teach them anything, then it becomes a very long year. You’ve got to get the best of both worlds.”
The head coach isn’t the only 49er excited about the new addition to the staff. Trent Taylor, a 5-foot-9 slot receiver often compared to Welker, said he thought the hire was “freakin’ sick.”
“He’s been a baller in the NFL for 10 plus years and it’s always just cool having a guy like that coaching you,” Taylor told NBC Sports Bay Area. “A guy with that type of experience and the guy people have compared me to my whole life.”
Shanahan also shared an update on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s road back from an ACL tear. According to the head coach, Tom Brady’s former backup is “ahead of schedule” in his recovery.