McKillop To 49ers In Fifth Round

It's probably not thought about too often, but the San Francisco 49ers have developed quite a nice pipeline to Pitt in recent years.

A rebuilding franchise in the NFL's NFC West, the Niners added Pittsburgh middle linebacker Scott McKillop Sunday to a roster that has former Panthers punter Andy Lee and cornerback Shawntae Spencer, in their sixth NFL seasons. San Francisco also drafted former Pitt running back Kevan Barlow in 2001.

McKillop, the 10th pick in the fifth round (146th overall), will play special teams and be an inside linebacker in San Francisco's three-four defense. The 49ers have third-year pro Patrick Willis, a rising star in the league, and 13-year veteran Takeo Spikes to learn from as well as Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary as the head coach.

"I don't think there's a better head coach that I could have in Mike Singletary,'' McKillop said. "To learn from somebody like him, a Hall of Fame linebacker, that's just a great situation for me. I don't know much about him other than that, but I do know that he was a great player and he'll be a great coach.

"(So), I just want to get into camp, study and learn the defense and do whatever I can to make the team. I'm going to work very hard to do anything I can to contribute, as a linebacker and on special teams. So, I'm really looking forward to getting out to San Francisco and getting started.''

McKillop was brought out to San Diego for a workout this spring, and Denver came to Pitt to see him. According to his agent, Brian Murphy, the Chargers were ready to take McKillop right before the Niners did.

"I thought it was the Chargers calling me, but it actually was San Francisco,'' McKillop said. "They called to congratulate me for being selected by them in the NFL Draft. I was speechless. If there's a word that means more than excited to be drafted, that's how I feel. It's just an unbelievable feeling.''

Even though the 49ers did not show much interest in McKillop initially, he certainly has some interest in them.

"I'm very familiar with Patrick Willis,'' McKillop said. "As a senior in college, he was just dominating, and now he's one of the top linebackers in the NFL. So, just getting there and learning everything I can from him will be beneficial. I just want to be a sponge and soak up anything I can to be a better player.

"(Spikes), I'm also familiar with his career. He's had a long and successful career in the NFL. He's a great player, too, so it will be great for me to get out there and learn as much as I can from both those guys. So, I'm looking forward to getting out there and doing everything I can to play.''

McKillop had a solid performance at the Combine, finishing in the top 5 in nearly every workout category, and he played well in the Senior Bowl after a slow start during practice the previous week.

"I didn't have a good first day at the Senior Bowl, but I think it was because we didn't play in a month,'' McKillop said. "So, I might not have looked too good in practice early that week, but I believe I got better as the week went along and had a good game. I just think that I was a little nervous in the beginning.

"One of the things that's been an asset to my game is my understanding of the game, everyone's assignments, my own as well as the other defenders. And by being a student of the game already, it has helped me be a better player. So, hopefully, that asset will benefit me in the NFL as well.''

McKillop likely will begin his NFL career the same way he did at Pitt, as a backup linebacker and special teams ace. And while he makes a mark on kick coverage, he'll learn what it takes to be successful in the three-four.

"I think I play like I have a chip on my shoulder,'' McKillop said. "I've always been doubted, so I've worked very hard to make up for that. When somebody makes a comment about me, that only makes me work harder. All I needed was a chance to play, and I believe I proved that I could get the job done.

"(And) I'm looking forward to the challenge of playing in the three-four. I think that I'm a very smart player who can pick up new defenses. So, I'm looking forward to getting out there as soon as possible and becoming a film rat to learn everything I can about the 49ers defense and special teams as well.

"I'm very excited about that,'' McKillop added. "I'm looking forward to making the team and contributing on special teams. I know a lot of people say they love special teams, but I truly love it. And that's the first place I made a name for myself was on special teams at Pitt. And I'll do whatever I need to do to help them out on defense, whatever it takes.''

H.B. Blades, McKillop's mentor at Pitt, believes his understudy should have a long NFL career. But Blades called McKillop during his draft interview to wish him luck just in case.

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