When Iowa State left tackle Carter Bykowski heard his name called on the third day of the draft during the seventh round, he was far too excited to worry about his long term prospects of making San Francisco's Super Bowl roster. Getting drafted was enough.
"I'm just happy to be here," he said. "This is the 49ers. It's an awesome organization to be apart of. I'm just delighted to be here and I'm the type of guy that has a goal every day and I'm trying to attain it and get myself in a position where I can be here for a while."
San Francisco's starters on the offensive line are all returning after becoming one of the most revered units in football en route to the Super Bowl last season. But there remains plenty of competition for the two backup positions on the game day roster. For Bykowski, his goal will be to stand out among the 15 linemen the team will have in training camp.
The three-time Big 12 academic honoree finished his career with 18 starts for the Cyclones, including all 13 games his senior season. He transitioned to tackle from tight end in high school and spent the majority of his junior season anchoring the right side of the offensive line. He didn't see consistent time at left tackle until he was a senior.
Known as a "late bloomer" because of his relative inexperience to the line, Bykowski is a prospect with upside that will need to develop his technique if he wants to become a swing tackle in the NFL.
"These guys here, it seems like every one can play any position to survive. In order to do that, it takes extra time in the film room, extra time on the field to get your sets in, different scenarios you might come across where you have to work on your sets…it's a lot of tedious things, but obviously the guys here put their time in because they can do it with a snap of the finger," he said.
When asked what he liked about Bykowski, general manager Trent Baalke kept it simple.
"He's a tough guy, he's a guy that's not afraid to get dirty. The grit, the intelligence, the work ethic," Baalke said in a post draft press conference.
Bykowski grew up Eden Prairie, Minn. and arrived at Iowa State as Minnesota's 10th-rated high school prospect after catching nine touchdowns as a senior tight end. USA Today ranked his 5A state championship-winning team 16th-best in the country. He also lettered in basketball.
His athleticism will serve him well, as it did Joe Staley who also converted from tight end before becoming one of the league's best tackles. Staley is a vocal leader on the line and communication was an area Bykowski noticed the unit excelled in while watching the team's run through the playoffs.
"Everyone was communicating on the same page at all times. And that's just something where you can tell they've put the time in together and they're all on the same page," Bykowski said.
"That takes time to develop. If I can get in there and work myself into that and emulate what they're doing, that'd be awesome for me."
The 49ers came into this season's draft with very few holes to fill, especially on the offensive line. So where does Bykowski fit in? His direct competition will be with Kenny Wiggins – who spent last season on the practice squad – while Adam Snyder is the heavy favorite to be the primary backup thanks to his versatility and knowledge of the system. Undrafted free agent Luke Marquardt will be also be battling for a job.
Now in California for the first time ever, Bykowski understands the difficult task ahead in cracking the roster or earning a spot on the practice squad. But his experience in transitioning to a new position should aid his evolution as pro.
"At this level if you can't adapt then you're not going to last long," he said. "It's all about putting that extra time in and working – it's very repetitive-type stuff and those guys who are the great ones, every day have the same routine. They're that good. They know when any situation comes up they can handle it."