NFL Draft

Shanahan, Lynch share what it's like to make life-changing draft calls

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SANTA CLARA — As the 49ers' seventh-round and last selection of the 2024 NFL Draft, linebacker Tatum Bethune let the experience wash over him as he got the call from general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.

“My emotions were everywhere,” Bethune said Saturday shortly after the 49ers selected him No. 251 overall. “I’m not going to lie to you. It was just waiting that long. I never waited that long in my life, and especially to get picked for something. So just hearing that call, and hearing them say they were going to draft me, it just was a dream come true.

“This is something I always knew I wanted to do since [I was] a little kid, and now it happened. Now I'm just ready to work.”

The Florida State defender joins fellow Seminole and cornerback Renardo Green, a 49ers second-round pick, in San Francisco's rookie draft class that consists of five offensive and three defensive player. Bethune wasn’t the only player feeling the emotions of the process, but maybe the most expressive.

"I think it was Bethune who really cracked up,” Lynch said Saturday after the draft. “I could hear it starting to happen. I handed [the phone] to Kyle, and Kyle said after, 'Man, he just lost it.' It's a lot of waiting. It's brutal. But it's really cool to share this experience with them, to hear their families all around them. And a great, great day for these guys and really, really cool to be a part of that.”

NFL GMs, head coaches and owners made dreams come true for hundreds of prospects after months of draft preparation and countless seasons of work. Being made to wait until the third day of the draft is understandably anxiety-inducing.

“They're emotional,” Shanahan said after Day 3 of the draft. “And you hear how, you take guys, especially here in the sixth, seventh round [who] have been waiting for this to end. Think of how long it is if you're waiting to see what the rest of your life's going to be like.

“You can just imagine how intense that is, and the anxiety. They barely can talk when you first talk to them.”

Towards the end of the third day of the draft, team representatives start reaching out to the remaining prospects in hopes of signing them as undrafted free agents, which is much more economic for the organization with significantly lower salaries.

Bethune told reporters that he actually was on the phone with a team who was hoping to sign him as a UDFA when Lynch and the 49ers rang. The 23-year-old obviously cut the phone call short and received the life-changing news from San Francisco.

“If they haven't broke by John, they eventually break halfway through me, or then they do it to Jed [York],” Shanahan said. “That doesn't get old. You're real happy for people when you can relieve them of that. It’s something they've worked their whole life.

“But you also try to remind guys, congratulations, I know that's your goal your whole life, but now it starts. So yeah, go to work.”

Every call is life changing for the prospect who gets the call, but Lynch explained that sometimes it’s giving a small-town guy his chance. Players like Jarrett Kingston, who grew up in the small town of Anderson, Calif., comprised of just over 11,000 people and 211 miles north of Santa Clara.

“Each of them,” Lynch said. “I mean, these calls are so cool. It really is. And Kingston, I'm thinking he's from Redding, California. I know Redding's up north somewhere, Anderson, Redding. But I said, 'How about that? We're going to make a kid from Redding a 49er,' and you could hear him start to melt.”

Now it’s up to each of the drafted players to keep their dreams alive, working hard enough to prove they are worthy of a roster spot. They soon will receive their play books and finalize their paperwork, with rookie mini camp right around the corner.

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