49ers reunite former prep teammates in SF secondary

Associated Press


Jaquiski Tartt spoke to good friend Jimmie Ward just last week about how great it would be if the old high school teammates from Mobile, Ala., ended up as safeties together on the same NFL team.

Back home, waiting for what the Samford defender expected to be a call in the third or fourth round of the draft, the phone rang on Friday night and 49ers coach Jim Tomsula was on the other end with news that he would be headed to San Francisco — and reunited with Ward despite the odds they had known were slim.

“We played together in high school and we talked about this day, it would be crazy to get on the same team,” Tartt said Friday night, en route to the university fieldhouse to celebrate with his Samford teammates. “It actually happened. It’s crazy.”

Tartt was selected at 46th overall in the second round — the highest pick ever for a player from his university — before San Francisco chose Virginia linebacker Eli Harold at 79th in the third round. Both players are considered four-down options, and general manager Trent Baalke was a bit surprised Harold was still available.

San Francisco looked to add a linebacker in the draft following the surprising retirements of five-time All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis and then Chris Borland shortly thereafter this offseason because of Borland’s concerns about head trauma.

Tartt provides the 49ers further depth in a secondary that lost two more key faces this offseason when cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver signed elsewhere in free agency. Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers and hard-hitting safety Donte Whitner departed last offseason, Dashon Goldson before that.

Yet with Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid and Ward already in the mix at safety, Tartt was a bit surprised the Niners added another.

“I was honestly expecting third or fourth round, maybe, but I ended up in the second. I’m just thankful,” he said. “I see myself playing special teams. I want to get out on special teams, make my name on special teams and learn as much as I can from Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid.”

At 6-foot-1, 218 pounds, Tartt has the height, wingspan and physical presence Baalke likes in the backfield. He also is considered a strong tackler in the open field.

“We said we were going to go big and stay big in this draft, and we have,” Baalke said. “Competition’s good.”

Baalke said that Ward’s two foot surgeries and three concussions for Reid didn’t factor into adding depth.

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