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Lucky 49ers snap up available offensive lineman Kwame Harris



Published: Wed, April 30, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



They weren't looking for an offensive lineman, but couldn't pass up Harris.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Kwame Harris was disappointed and angry as the first round progressed -- until the Stanford offensive lineman realized his fall would end close to home.

Though the San Francisco 49ers intended to choose a defensive lineman or a receiver with their top pick in Saturday's NFL draft, they couldn't believe their luck when Harris, generally considered the second-best offensive lineman on the board, was available.

They snapped him up with the 26th overall pick -- and Harris, who was beginning to regret his decision to skip his senior season, was thrilled.

"I'm really surprised. I had expectations of going a little higher, I'm not going to lie about that," Harris said. "But we all know that the draft is crazy. I was ecstatic when it came around. ... I just started screaming. It was awesome.

"It's been a desire of mine since all this has started to go to a team that's committed to winning. The San Francisco 49ers, they're a manifestation of that. They're without question one of the best organizations in football today."

Defensive line

After capitalizing on their good fortune in the first round, the 49ers addressed their needs on the defensive line, where they lost two starters in the off-season. San Francisco selected lineman Anthony Adams from Penn State in the second round, then chose defensive end Andrew Williams from Miami in the third.

But the surprise of the first day was Harris, a 6-foot-7 bruiser who was voted the Pac-10's top lineman last season after starting at right tackle for two years.

If Harris had stayed at Stanford for his final year, he might have been a top-10 pick in 2004 -- but for a variety of reasons, he slipped past several teams expected to choose him earlier.

San Francisco hadn't selected an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft since Harris Barton in 1987.

"We had talked about this scenario, but we didn't think he would be there, to be honest with you," coach Dennis Erickson said. "To find a guy that big and that good of an athlete at No. 26 is something that we just couldn't pass up."

Intelligence

His intelligence is obvious from his Stanford pedigree, but Harris -- who was born in Jamaica before his family moved to Delaware when he was 2 -- also has an artistic side. The muscle-bound, 310-pound performer was a music major, and he plays the violin and the piano.

For the second time in three years, the 49ers kept a local college standout close to home with their first-round pick. San Francisco chose defensive end Andre Carter in 2001.

Erickson said Harris will get a chance to play immediately on the left side of the 49ers' line, either at tackle -- where Derrick Deese has been the starter for the last three seasons -- or guard.

Harris will join former teammate Eric Heitmann, a seventh-round pick last season who became a surprise starter at left guard. In fact, Harris and Heitmann might be competing for a job -- and Heitmann, who vouched for Harris' work ethic and character to the 49ers' coaches, is all for it.




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