How Taylor Mays became a film buff

With a sizable chip on his shoulder (at least if you judge by the barbs aimed at Pete Carroll on draft day), a new style to learn and a lot to prove in the NFL, it made sense that Taylor Mays would be an early signing. He was neither early nor late, putting pen to paper this morning, a couple hours before he was scheduled to sit in his first meeting of training camp.

Now we know why Mays didn’t sign earlier: He had to wait for the player slotted directly in front of him, former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

“Me and Jimmy actually have the same agent, so it was kind of waiting for Jimmy to get his contract done (with Carolina), so it would kind of be based upon what Jimmy did,” said Mays, who is represented by Gary Wichard. “That was kind of a little bit of in-house stuff … I know my agent Gary had to get Jimmy taken care of first.”

The QBs always seem to come first in this league. But Mays, who possesses a frightening combination of size and speed, is a player who has intrigued 49ers fans since the moment he was drafted in the second round. His challenge now is learning to play safety in the NFL, where he won’t be positioned 30 yards downfield as he often was at USC.

Mays hasn’t taken that challenge lightly. He moved into the Silicon Valley area this summer and was a constant presence since the final minicamp, lifting weights and, especially, watching film. He watched with coaches, and he watched by himself. He watched his own spring practice tapes, and he watched film of potential NFL opponents.

“Just so I can learn what I need to improve on in terms of my technique, and watching film on the defense and how to play the defense correctly and technically right,” Mays explained.

The rookie, who signed a four-year deal, said he’s trying to become more aware of situations and formations – he used wide-receiver splits as an example – as he moves toward becoming a complete NFL safety. He also has been honing his technique.

“Just being low, working on my back paddle and just working to be technically sound to play safety,” Mays said. “It’s just a lot of things, a lot of things that I didn’t do before. It’s not just doing my job, but it’s doing my job physically the right way.”

Part of Mays’ accelerated learning curve was getting to camp on time. That, more than a desire to prove anyone wrong, was why he instructed Wichard to get him to Santa Clara by today.

“I wanted to be here just to be a part of the team and be able to contribute to the team, and just learn and not miss out on any opportunities,” Mays said. “And that was always most important to me, regardless of what anybody else had said. That was one of the main factors for me, to be here and not miss any opportunities. I’ve never been that type of person before, and I didn’t want to be that type of person now.”