George Kittle Talks 49ers Draft, Kyle Shanahan, Jersey Numbers, and More

We talked to San Francisco 49ers All-Pro TE George Kittle about the upcoming NFL Draft, his offseason, grilling, his thoughts on Kyle Pitts, and much more.

George Kittle

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George Kittle

George Kittle is taking in NFL Draft week in style. Well, in his own style, which means grilling and enjoying the fruits of his labor at his new house down in Nashville that features a barn with a full gym in it. Very much a George Kittle staple. So while his team, the San Francisco 49ers, try and figure out the future of their franchise in the draft, Kittle is soaking it all in and enjoying his offseason. And why shouldn’t he? He’s one of the best tight ends in the NFL and just signed a huge contract extension last year. Live it up, George. 

With the draft upon us, we had the opportunity to talk to Kittle about his grill style, the 49ers draft, Kyle Shanahan quotes, Kyle Pitts, and much more. 

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

The 49ers are dominating the headlines this week. Do you have thoughts on the draft this year and what they should do or do you just leave that up to Shanahan and [general manager john] Lynch? 
Oh, I mean, at the end of the day I play tight end and I know I catch a football and I hit people in the run game and I don’t really make those draft decisions. So anyone that we draft I’m going to get along with them. I’m going to have fun with. So my biggest thing is I just hope they draft a guy that’s a cool person and that’s going to benefit our locker room in a good way. I don’t want to be in a locker room with someone that we draft that’s kind of a prima donna or, you know, thinks they’re bigger than the team. Those are two things that I don’t do well with. So I think John has done a fantastic job about putting people in the locker room that are good people. And like, I love all my teammates. And so I think they’re going to continue to do that. And whether it’s a quarterback, a tight end, a fullback, offensive lineman, D lineman, whoever we draft, I can’t wait to meet them. 

What are the odds if you texted Kyle that he would tell you what the pick is? Are they slim?
I’ve already asked that. I’ve asked like three times and he said no.

Every single time?
I’m going to try, I’m going to try. I’m going to call him again Wednesday night. I’m going to call him again Thursday morning, maybe Thursday afternoon. Maybe I’m just going to try to beat Ian Rapoport to the tweet and say, “Hey, the 49ers have made their pick.” Well, that’s what I’m going for. It’s not going to happen though [laughs].

No one said you can’t tip the picks. He can’t tip the picks, but no one says you can’t.
I’ve been kind of reckless on social media this offseason. And so I’m not entirely sure of what, you know, I can get in trouble with. And I’m just kind of pushing the envelope on absolutely everything that I say. And I haven’t gotten fined yet. So I’m just going to keep working at it and we’ll see what happens. 

I saw your tweet in response to Kyle saying he doesn’t know if any of us are going to be alive on Sunday.
Oh, dude. What a great quote. Right? Like that was hilarious. I love it so much. Like I’ve heard, I’ve heard that quote a time or two, like in a different context.

Asked if he could guarantee that Jimmy Garoppolo would be on the 49ers’ roster Sunday, Kyle Shanahan said, “I can’t guarantee that anybody in the world will be alive Sunday."

From him?
Oh yeah. From him, like my rookie year and again, a couple years ago. There’s nothing Kyle hates more than when you ask him about what’s guaranteed for the next day. Like, don’t, he’s just like, I don’t know what I’m doing tonight. So like, don’t ask me about what I’m doing tomorrow. Let alone Sunday, which I totally feel. I get that. Like, it is hard. You asked me what I’m doing on Sunday. I have no idea what’s going on on Sunday. I’m just trying to enjoy this beautiful Tuesday. 

I assume you’re going to be on the 49ers roster come Sunday. I think I can guarantee that for you. 
I hope so. Thank you. I hope so.

Wondering how much Kyle Pitts tape you’ve watched? He’s really awesome and with you being a tight end, I imagine it’s cool to see a guy that good in the draft. Oh, he’s awesome. I got to watch him play in a couple of games. I think he’s going to be an incredible football player. I don’t know how you can look at that guy and say he’s not one of the best players in the draft, because every time he touches the football field, he gets like two touchdowns and just makes guys look silly out there. So I think he’s going to be incredibly successful at this level.

We can call Iowa “Tight End U,” right? Who else would it even be? 
If you can give me another argument as to why it’s not Tight End U, I’d listen [laughs]. I mean, I know other schools have really good tight ends and there’s great tight ends everywhere. But no other school has ever had two tight ends go in the first-round back-to-back. So until someone does that, I don’t know. And I know Kyle Pitts will probably go top five. I hope he does. Could you imagine if Kyle Pitts went No. 1 overall and then everyone didn’t know what to do with the rest of the draft. That’d be hilarious and I would love it. But yeah, Iowa is Tight End U. 

Do you have thoughts on the shift to single digits in the NFL for skill guys? Would you ever change from 85?
The only number I ever wanted to be other than…well, I mean, I didn’t want to be 85. That’s just what I was when I got to the Niners, the only other number I ever wanted to be was 11. I love it. I just think 11 is such a sick number. I had that for like a while in like eighth and ninth grade. So I thought I was really cool, but Brandon Aiyuk has that one, so who knows. I mean, I might try to buy it off of him, but probably not. Eighty-five worked pretty well for me so far.

What do you think of the whole change overall? Tom Brady was not a fan. 
Yeah. I mean, I totally get it and I get the freedom behind it. I get what Tom Brady said though. I think coaches are going to use it to an advantage. I think it’s going to add a totally new part of the game because you got like…if you’re not a football player and when you have to find the MIKE LB. We have to find like the nickel SAM because we’re in 11 personnel and you don’t know if it’s a safety or a linebacker and that’s hard. The fact that now they can make everybody whatever number they want. It’s going to get messy. And I agree with Tom, it’s going to be some sloppy offense until it gets figured out and teams get settled with it. 

Let’s talk about your new Kingsford campaign. You seem like a big grill guy. 
Other than the fact that I actually grill with only pellets like every single time. And they were like, “Hey, we want you to represent our 100 percent Hickory wood pellets because you’re a guy that seems like he’s like 100 percent authentic. You’re a hundred percent of yourself all the time.” So I think we kind of go hand-in-hand together and I use the product. So I’m big on that. I try to actually use everything that I represent. And the fact that they were talking to me about pellets and then they were like, “Hey, we’re also going to let you hit a bag of pellets with a steel chair.” I was like “I’m in.” 

What’s your main dish on the grill?
My best thing? I grill is a bacon wrapped filet with garlic butter. That’s my go-to. My wife likes it. I like it. It’s easy. Garlic butter sounds fancy. It’s not that fancy, but it tastes incredible. So I’m big on that. I’ve got to get some Iowa sweet corn down here in Nashville, because it’s just different. Sweet corn just hits different. 

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