SANTA CLARA The text messages were piling up before Konrad Reuland even left the playing field Friday night.
During the telecast, play-by-play announcer Dennis O'Donnell referred to Reuland, a backup tight end fighting to make the 49ers roster, by his training camp nickname: The Garbage Man.
His friends and family loved it and peppered him with Garbage Enanthemata messages. After some initial doubt, Reuland has come to embrace it as well.
"It's a funny thing because when you first think of it, you're like, 'Wow, Garbage Man? Really? That's my nickname?' " he said Tuesday. "But the way they use it and what it refers to, it's nothing but a compliment, and I don't see it as anything but a compliment. Just to have a nickname in the league is something that's cool, something that I cherish and want to keep.
"I want to keep that nickname."
Reuland got the moniker last year when, as an undrafted rookie from Stanford, he routinely made diving, sliding and otherwise contorted catches over the middle of the field, usually amid a pile of defenders. No matter how ugly the pass or how gritty the job, the Garbage Man didn't mind getting his hands dirty. And he always came through.
Offensive-line coach Tim Drevno, who also coached Reuland at Stanford, said the tight end's best attribute may be his drive and determination.
"He's a guy that doesn't flinch," Drevno said. "He'll look you dead straight in the eye and say, 'Hey, give me the ball, put me in a position to make the big block.' He has a tremendous competitive edge about him."
Reuland spent two seasons at Notre Dame before transferring to Stanford.
There he found a roster full of talented tight ends, including Coby Fleener, who was drafted 34th overall by the Colts in April, and Zach Ertz, a junior who could go even higher in the upcoming draft.
With that sort of pass-catching talent as competition, Reuland knew he had to distinguish himself in other ways, and he did so with hustle and precision.
Greg Roman, who was Reuland's offensive coordinator at Stanford and now with the 49ers, called Reuland "Mr. Fix-it" because he knew the offense so well and could fill in at multiple positions.
But Reuland prefers "Garbage Man" because of its blue-collar connotation.
During one of his first NFL practices last year, Reuland took on veteran defensive tackle Justin Smith in a blocking drill. The encounter left him flat on his back and staring up at the blue Santa Clara sky.
He landed on the 49ers' practice squad and committed himself to getting stronger and becoming a better blocker so that he could make the 53-man roster this season as the team's No. 3 tight end.
Reuland's getting plenty of chances to see whether that hard work has paid off.
He played as many snaps as any 49er in Friday's exhibition opener against the Vikings he was in from the first quarter through the fourth quarter and finished the game with two catches for 17 yards.
With fellow tight ends Delanie Walker and Nate Byham out with knee injuries, Reuland promises to see even more action Saturday against Houston. Depending on the personnel package, he could start the game alongside Vernon Davis.
The Garbage Man doesn't mind the extra work.
"I will never complain about too many reps, that's for sure," he said. "For me to not go out and give everything I have every single day, I mean, it would just be cheapening what I'm trying to accomplish here."