Will 49ers go the Gates route at TE?

Sometimes good football players aren't always found on football fields of colleges across the nation, as many scouts believe. Sometimes they come from an entirely different place - the basketball court. That's what one agent believes is the case with a former member of the University of Connecticut basketball team. The idea is to find the next Antonio Gates. Although he may not be another Gates, this player may have enough football in him to make it in the NFL.

It seems just like yesterday when Gates - a former Kent State University star basketball player - burst onto the NFL scene in just his second season and had a breakout year for the San Diego Chargers. The former undrafted free agent is now recognized as one of the top two tight ends in the league.

New Haven-based agent Joe Linta, like many of his brethren, is looking for the next Gates, or a facsimile there of.

Linta signed former Texas A&M-Corpis Christi basketball player Corey Lampkin last year and got him signed to a deal with the New York Jets, and he is looking for another hoops player that could make it to the next level on the football side.

After watching Connecticut basketball player Ed Nelson during the recent NCAA tournament, Linta decided to work him out on campus this past Tuesday.

"I went to the workout not expecting much but after watching him work out, I came out knowing he's an NFL prospect at tight end. He's got great quickness, good hands, and tremendous lower body strength," Linta said.

Linta should know. After all, he played and coached at Yale, which only enhanced his understanding of the game. Having athletic talent is just part of being an NFL prospect.

"I have never heard a stronger recommendation about a kid's heart and work ethic than that from (UConn basketball) head coach Jim Calhoun for Ed Nelson," Linta added.

Nelson made his decision on Thursday to sign with Linta, who also represents NFL coaches, players, and other projected high-round prospects for this month's draft - players such as Kamerion Wimbley and Charles Spencer.

While he hasn't played football since his sophomore year in high school, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Nelson is set to show NFL teams his talent at his Pro Day on campus next Friday. Throwing to him will be another Linta client, Yale University quarterback Jeff Mroz.

The 49ers have not yet revealed any interest in Nelson, but they may send some of their scouts to check out the big guy's football skills at his Pro Day to see if he's worthy of being a sleeper pick for a San Francisco team that definitely will be on the lookout for TE prospects on April 29 & 30.

Niners Digest Top Stories