The star of the 49ers' dominant win over the Packers nearly became a pro surfer and was cut 6 times in the NFL before breaking out
Tony Avelar/AP Images
Tony Avelar/AP Images
- San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert dominated the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship with 220 yards and 4 touchdowns.
- Mostert has had a wild journey to this point, from being offered to skate and surf for Billabong as a teenager, to being cut six times in two years in the NFL.
- Mostert's role has grown with the 49ers over three years, and he now looks like the lead back in a dynamic offense.
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Raheem Mostert was like a one-man offense in the San Francisco 49ers' 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship on Sunday.
Jose Carlos Fajardo/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News/Getty Images
Mostert has had a wild journey in the NFL, bouncing from team to team and beginning this season as a backup. Before then, Mostert almost didn't even play in the NFL.
An offer from BillabongMostert grew up in the coastal town of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, surfing and skateboarding in what he called "shark-bite capital of the world." He told The Athletic's Matt Barrows in 2018 that when he was a teenager, the surf/skate clothing company Billabong offered him a deal.
"I'd be out there surfing or skateboarding on my own, not really trying to make a scene or anything," Mostert said. "And this guy came up to me and wanted to offer me a contract. He was intrigued, basically."According to Barrows, the contract would have had Mostert take part in events around the country in the competition circuit. It also would have paid him.However, Mostert instead stuck with football, later graduating from Purdue University, then entering the NFL.
Mostert can still surf today, but he gets out less than he did growing up. He told Barrows that action sports and football require some similar skills, like balance, tolerance for physical contact, and adjusting on the fly.
"You're in a wave and at that moment you want to make a decision whether you want to do a trick - flare-up, do a nice trick and land - or just ride the wave out," he told Barrows. "That's the same thing with football: there are a lot of different angles. Sometimes, you have to split two defenders. Sometimes, you don't want to go out of bounds because you can get an extra three or four yards. So you plant a foot and head upfield."
A rocky NFL start
Chris Szagola/AP Images
Over the next 13 months, Mostert had stints with the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, and Chicago Bears.
Mostert landed with the 49ers in November of 2016 as a practice squad player. He played 11 games in 2017 but was eventually placed on injured reserve to make room on the roster.Still, in 2018, the 49ers re-signed him to a one-year, $705,000 contract.
From special teams to starting running backOver the course of two seasons with the 49ers, Mostert's role with the 49ers grew, from a special-teams player to a running back.
In 2018, he played nine games, receiving 34 carries for 261 yards and a touchdown. He began this season behind Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman, but 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told Mostert that they would find room for him after his impact on special teams.Mostert received a steady workload for the first weeks of the season, but once Coleman returned from an injury, Mostert received just 32 carries over seven weeks in the middle of the year.
His role then grew again over the final weeks of the season, and he produced. From Week 13 to Week 17, Mostert posted 244 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, and 5 touchdowns. He led the NFL in yards per carry this season with 5.6.All of his work seemed to culminate on Sunday, as he ran through the Packers defense. Mostert became the only player in NFL history to post over 150 yards and 3 touchdowns in a first half.The Packers had no answer for Mostert, who credited the offensive line after the game.
The 49ers capitalized on believing in Mostert before his role grew. In March, they signed him to a three-year, $8.7 million contract. A performance like Sunday's would have set Mostert up for a huge payday this offseason. While his stable role is a nice change of pace for him, the 49ers also got an impact running back locked in at a cheap price.
The 49ers will now go to the Super Bowl to face the Chiefs, who on Sunday effectively shut down Derrick Henry, the hottest running back in the league. Mostert has a chance to add another chapter to his journey if he can replicate Sunday's success for the championship.
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