When the 49ers began crafting their 90-man roster following the draft in late April, it was littered with connections from Jim Harbaugh’s college days. Among the familiar faces recently added this offseason was linebacker Eric Bakhtiari, who earned a tryout for the rookie minicamp and was signed to a two-year deal shortly thereafter.
Though he’s only played in three NFL games, making six special teams tackles in 2009 with the Tennessee Titans, Bakhtiari knows the league well having bounced around on several practice squads.
“San Francisco, San Diego, Tampa, Tennessee, Miami, Cleveland, Kansas City,” Bakhtiari said. “I think that’s it.”
This latest opportunity with the 49ers actually marks the third time he’s been a part of the organization, as he was on the team’s practice squad during the 2008 and 2010 seasons. Bakhtiari played for Harbaugh in 2006 at the University of San Diego and clearly made a good impression. Recently asked if he still remembered Bakhtiari from their previous time together, Harbaugh said, “Of course.”
“He had a tremendous college career,” Harbaugh added. “He was our best player on defense when we were down there and he’s had a great career. He’s obviously one of those guys who’s trying to get over the hump. He’s been in camps. He’s been on practice squad. His goal right now is to make the football team. And he’s doing fine.”
Likewise, Bakhtiari had some kind words for his coach, whom he said has developed since moving from San Diego to Stanford to the 49ers.
“I think he’s become a better coach,” Bakhtiari said. “He was outstanding at San Diego and he’s only got exponentially better. You can tell just by the way he’s been able to take what he’s done at the level he did it at and step up a level and continue the same success.”
This time around, Bakhtiari has taken up residence at Joe Staley’s house as he tries to carve out a position on the deep San Francisco roster. Together with Staley and wide receiver Joe Hastings, Bakhtiari said it’s never boring at the house.
“Me and the two Joes,” Bakhtiari said. “Big Joe and Little Joe.”
Bakhtiari is hardly the only player Harbaugh coached in college that has found a fighting chance with the 49ers. In fact, Bakhtiari was signed on the same day as defensive back Ben Hannula, who played for Harbaugh at San Diego in 2006 as well.
There were also some ex-Stanford players recently added to the mix, as safety Michael Thomas, receiver Chris Owusu and defensive end Matthew Masifilo signed undrafted free agent deals with the team. Harbaugh had some particularly nice things to say about Thomas following Wednesday’s Organized Team Activity, citing the leadership qualities he displayed as a team captain at Stanford.
“He’s done a real fine job,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got a little bit of an advantage knowing (defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio’s system, but I know Michael really well. We know Michael really well and it’s no surprise how hard he’s competing and how well he’s doing.”
Tags: Eric Bakhtiari, Michael Thomas
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