The news surrounding Nick Bosa wasn’t good just days before the start of the NFL Draft on Thursday.
Reports of him “liking” racist and homophobic posts on Instagram surfaced, adding fuel to the conversation about his social media habits and political viewpoints.
Bosa was an outspoken conservative online. He told ESPN in a recent story he wanted to scrub his social media because he might be playing in San Francisco, one of the most liberal areas of the country.
But the 49ers don’t believe he’ll have any problem ingratiating himself into the locker room. They made him the second overall selection in the draft because they believe he can be a transformative pass rusher for their lackluster defense.
“I love the Bay Area, and I’m excited to play there,” Bosa said in a conference call Thursday. “I was a little insensitive in some of the things I said (on social media). I’ve learned a lot in the past few months. And I’m just ready to move forward in that, put it in the past and bring the Faithful some wins.”
The posts that made waves this week came when he was a 16-year-old at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He didn’t think he would ever have to explain them after gaining national attention.
“I was a 16-year-old scrolling through my Instagram and I liked a picture of someone I knew with a girl,” he said. “There was nothing racist about the picture. Obviously, there’s some bad things said in the hashtags, but obviously I didn’t read those. As a 16-year-old in high school, you kind of don’t think something like that will come back and bite you. So, that’s that.”
The 49ers were made aware of the posts at the same time as everyone else. But they didn’t seem very concerned. They had gotten to know Bosa through a series of meetings and chatted up his teammates and coaches to gain perspective before making him one of their marquee players.
It began in December. The 49ers were in Los Angeles to take on the Rams in the 2018 season finale. Ohio State was practicing at nearby StubHub Center to prepare for the Rose Bowl against Washington. Bosa was staying in L.A. with his brother, Joey, to rehab a core muscle injury that ended his season. The younger Bosa decided to rejoin his teammates.
John Lynch, general manager of the 49ers, and personnel executive Adam Peters went to watch Ohio State practice. Even without Bosa, the Buckeyes were littered with NFL Draft prospects. They were surprised to see Bosa back with his teammates. Bosa’s teammates were just as shocked.
“The entire practice stopped, and every player, every coach, every student manager on that team stopped and embraced Nick Bosa,” Lynch said Thursday. “That spoke to me that here they are with Urban Meyer, who’s a pretty intense coach, and he just let it happen because it just happened very organically, and to watch those teammates, I think in a situation where they could have had some animosity for a guy who made a decision to leave his team to get ready for his next step in his career, in his professional career, instead they all were appreciative of a guy who they had a ton of respect for.”
Despite the perception created by his social media presence, the signs coming out of Columbus indicated Bosa was a revered teammate.
“I just relate to all my guys,” he said. “I’m not a vocal leader, as in ‘rah-rah’ guy, but I’ll get on you if you’re a young guy and I think you’re not doing something the right way. I’ll give you a tip. Whenever I tell you something, it usually means something and it’s usually something that’s coming from the heart. Because I don’t usually speak unless it is something from my heart. I think I had a great relationship with pretty much everybody on my team. I’m an easy guy to relate to.”
Bosa had long been on the 49ers’ radar. Lynch confirmed improving the defensive line was a priority when he and coach Kyle Shanahan were hired in 2017.
They’ve made waves this offseason, starting with the trade for Kansas City Pro Bowler Dee Ford in March. The addition of Bosa gives the 49ers five former first-round picks on the defensive line.
“Two of the first things we talked about is finding our quarterback and finding the guys to knock him down,” Lynch said.
Bosa logged 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss in 30 games for Ohio State. He was widely considered the best player in the draft and was available because the Arizona Cardinals took quarterback Kyler Murray with the top overall selection.
Bosa is excited about the fit with San Francisco. The team’s 4-3 scheme will allow him to play his natural defensive end spot. Paired with DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas and Ford, the 49ers should be able to drastically improve last season’s 28th-ranked scoring defense that set an NFL record for the fewest takeaways (seven).
“It’s exactly what I’ve been doing all my life. So I think I’ll hop in and acclimate pretty quick,” Bosa said.