John Taylor

What advice 49ers great Taylor gave Aiyuk before 2022 NFC title game

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Before the 2022 NFC Championship Game, 49ers legend John Taylor gave some sage advice to Brandon Aiyuk.

In an exclusive with the San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch, Taylor explained what he told Aiyuk on the bus ride to SoFi Stadium for the NFC title tilt against the Los Angeles Rams. In this game, Taylor served as an honorary captain for San Francisco.

“I introduced myself to him and I told him, ‘Brandon, listen: I watched your whole career at (Arizona State). You are a helluva receiver, man,” Taylor said. “‘This is just my advice to you. You can take it or leave it, but this is my advice to you: Stop overthinking. Just go play. Let your ability take over.’”

Whether or not Taylor’s words had any impact on the young wideout, Aiyuk did end up having a breakout season the following year, developing into one of the elite receivers in the league. The 26-year-old averaged 787 yards and 52 receptions per season during the first two campaigns of his career, while over the past two seasons, he averaged 1,178.5 yards and 76.5 receptions.

Clearly, Aiyuk’s ability and talent were there from the start, which Taylor pointed out to San Francisco general manager John Lynch.

“[Aiyuk is] just thinking too much,” Taylor said. “He’s just got to go play, let his ability take over. I know that feeling: In his mind, he’s wondering and he has to stop wondering.”

Much like Aiyuk, Taylor specialized in over-the-middle catches and displayed plenty of incredible athleticism during his nine seasons with the 49ers as the second receiving option to Jerry Rice. The former receiver was recently inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame for his contributions to three of San Francisco’s Super Bowl victories, including the game-winning catch in Super Bowl XXIII.

The 49ers and Aiyuk still are in the midst of contract negotiations, and despite some rumors of a potential trade, Lynch still is hopeful that the organization will be able to keep the 26-year-old long-term.

Aiyuk has one year left on his rookie contract but has made it clear that he wants to be paid significantly more, which will make it difficult for the 49ers to retain him and the rest of the offense with the looming Brock Purdy contract extension after next season.

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