SANTA CLARA — Here is a transcript of Jaquiski Tartt’s first press conference as a member of the 49ers, courtesy of the 49ers public relations department.
Where are we hearing from you tonight?
“I’m on the road, actually. I’m headed to my school to celebrate with my teammates and my family in Birmingham.”
Who called you from the 49ers and what is your take on playing for this team?
“The head coach called me. When I came on my visit it was a great visit. I loved it out there. The coaches were very straightforward and genuine. A lot of the team, meeting a lot of the players too, you could see how focused they were even though it’s not even the season yet. You could just tell they were focused, they were on a mission. Me just being there I feel like it’s a good spot for me. I can learn a lot from these guys.”
Is this right around the area where you thought you’d be drafted or were you expecting to go maybe a little bit later?
“I was honestly expecting the third or fourth round maybe, but I ended up in the second. I’m just thankful they drafted me in the second round.”
Tell us a little bit about your game. There aren’t very many Samford University games on TV out here.
“I like to come down and tackle and also I can play in the post. I can do either or. It really doesn’t matter to me. First off, I see myself playing special teams. I want to get out on special teams and make my name on special teams and learn as much as I can from [S] Antoine Bethea and [S] Eric Reid.”
Do you know those guys at all?
“No, I don’t know them personally. But I know who they are because of TV, seeing them, watching them in college.”
Do you know DB Jimmie Ward?
“That’s my best friend, Jimmie Ward. We played together in high school and we talked about this day. It would be crazy if me and him end up on the same team. For it to actually happen, it’s crazy.’”
When did you guys last talk about that?
“I’d say like a week ago. We talked probably like a week ago.”
Has he called you yet?
“No, I just text him. That’s all, I text him. ”
You guys are kind of in competition now, aren’t you?
“Yeah. That is going to make us better.”
Did you work on in Arizona?
“No, I worked out in EXOS in Pensacola.”
It sounds like you had a really good showing at the Senior Bowl. What was your mindset going into that? Did you go into it as a guy who felt like you were kind of off the radar going to a small school?
“Going into it I knew it was a lot of great guys coming in, great players. I was just trying to focus on me. Do what I normally do. I felt like my skills weren’t too far off from the bigger school guys. So I felt like I, I mean, I was comfortable being around them. I had trained with a lot of big name guys. And I felt like they helped me out too, just being around those guys. They laid out just like I laid out, honestly.”
So you’re driving yourself to the University. Where are you guys going to have this get together?
“On campus at our field house, at my schools field house.”
Did you meet with the 49ers at the Senior Bowl?
“Yeah, I met with a lot of teams.”
You mentioned Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea and obviously Jimmie’s here too. Were you surprised the 49ers took you just because, you know, from the outside it doesn’t look like they have a pressing need for a safety?
“Yes, I was. I thought the same thing. They have a great group of guys in that secondary. It’s the draft. That is why the draft is the draft.”
What are some of the comments that Jimmie told you about what his time was like with the 49ers last year so that you know what you are getting into?
“Just come to work. Just come to work, study the playbook. Make sure you get in the playbook. Be ready to play special teams.”
How much covering of tight ends did you do at Samford?
“I didn’t cover tight ends. I covered the slot in our defense we played in college. I covered the slot most of the time. Or even the post.”
So you were having to cover guys that were 180 pounds? How did you fare in those encounters?
“I feel like I fared pretty good. Really, a lot of teams, they honestly didn’t throw my way in college.”
Who was the best receiver you’d say you went up against in college?
“I’d say the TCU receivers were the best receivers I went up against. And then I also went up against [University of Auburn WR] Sammie Coates, he was pretty good himself.”
What was the injury that you had the kept you out of some of the combine drills?
“I had tweaked my ankle in the Senior Bowl. It kind of set me back for the combine. I was able to build my strength back up in my ankle to run, but I wasn’t all the way back being able to plant and cut 100 percent.”
Do you think you would have run faster at the combine than your 4.5?
“Yeah, I think I would’ve run faster.”
So, you were kind of prepared to wait another couple of hours tonight or even into tomorrow, right?
“Yeah. I actually was. Yes, I was.”
So how surprised were you when the phone rang a little bit ago?
“I was ecstatic. It was crazy. I prayed to God to put me in the right spot and he came through for me. I end up on the team with my best friend.”
Can you pronounce your first name again for us?
And what’s the origin of it or how did that name come about? Is there a story behind it?
“Not really. But, my mom, she wanted to call me Quiski. My auntie, they are real close, they’re good friends and she said add Ja to it and that’s what happened. They added Ja to it and I became Jaquiski.”
Did you have a shoulder injury during the season?
“My junior season, yes. I had a shoulder injury. I ended up tearing my Labrum the first game. But, I played the whole season through it.”
You played the whole season despite a torn Labrum. How difficult was that? Were there times where you thought that you might not be able to continue playing?
“Yeah. There were a lot of times where, you could see it on film, where my arm just went dead and numb where I couldn’t move it. Some games it got real crazy where I was just really out there with one arm basically.”
Which arm is that?
“My right shoulder.”
How old were you when you first met Jimmie Ward?
“I met him in high school, my ninth grade year. So, I was around 14-years old.”
And you’ve been, you said best friends. Is that accurate?
“Yeah, it’s accurate. We actually used to, in college that’s when we became a whole lot closer because we used to compete every Saturday. We used to compare our stats, talk before the game like, ‘I’m going to go out and do this today or that today.’ We just used to compete however we could.”
You didn’t start playing football until your senior year of high school. Is that right?
What kind of got you turned toward football then?
“A lot of reasons. My granddad, he was somebody special in my life and he wanted to see me play high school football, but he ended up passing away. So, he never got a chance to see me play, so that weighed real heavy on me. Friends and family, they wanted me to come out and play football again. I played Pop Warner football, but after Pop Warner I stopped playing. I ended up playing basketball at my high school.”
What was your grandfather’s name?
When you started playing football in college, did you think that the NFL was even a possibility?
“No. I went into college thinking I need to get me a job. I actually told Jimmie, Jimmie was telling me, ‘Man you can make it too, you can make it too,’ my freshman year. I was like, ‘Nah I’m going to just leave it up to you man. I’m going to cheer you on. I’m just going to get me a good job where I can start work once I graduate.’”
What was your major, geography?
“Yeah, geography with a specialization in GIS. That’s Geographic Information System.”
So, what was sort of you plan, career path?
“I was going to work with a private utility company that uses GIS and they usually make contracts with the military base and stuff like that. And when I went on a job shadow once, I just fell in love with doing that.”
When did the NFL become a dream to you?
“Once I started getting a lot of, after my sophomore season, a lot of people started telling me man you’re pretty good. And then I started seeing the websites with my name on it about me being in the NFL. That’s when I was like, ‘OK, I need to start working a lot harder to get there.’ That’s when I pursued it after my sophomore year.”
Are you going to fly in here tomorrow? Is that the plan?
“I’m not sure. We haven’t discussed that yet.”
We didn’t see Jimmie on Wednesday. They had an open practice here. How is he doing? How is his foot?
“He’s doing well from the last time I talked to him. I can’t really tell you too much.”
And, do you guys kind of go back and forth on the text messages? Maybe not talking trash, but good nature this is what I’m going to do stats-wise and things like that?
“Yeah. In college he would tell me, ‘Man you’ve got to go out and get this many tackles.’ And I would come back, ‘Yeah, you need to get this many picks or if you get an interception you need to take it back to the house.’ Stuff like that. Just encouraging each other.”