Kory Faulkner might be the most anonymous of the five quarterbacks on the 49ers’ roster. But he’s the only one taking part in the team’s three-day rookie minicamp.
And the undrafted free agent already has proven he’s pretty clever.
When the former Southern Illinois quarterback was looking for a venue to show off his skills before the draft, he chose to do so at Northwestern University’s pro day. The weather in Illinois is pretty fierce in early March and Northwestern’s practice facility is indoors.
More important, Faulkner knew the event would be well attended by general managers and coaches in search of quarterbacks because Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo, a rival of Faulkner’s and one of the more highly touted prospects in the draft, would be working out there, too.
One of the NFL bigwigs who showed up to watch Garoppolo was 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who had a lengthy throwing session with Garoppolo but took a liking to Faulkner as well.
“I didn’t go up to Northwestern to try to outdo Jimmy Garrapolo or anything,” Faulkner said Friday. “... It was good for him to be there, and I did well that day, and it gave me an opportunity. I don’t think coach Harbaugh looked at just that pro day and said, ‘I like Kory Faulkner.’ They watched tape and I did some good things on tape, so that’s why I’m here getting an opportunity.”
The game film Harbaugh and quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst watched showed a quarterback with good size (6-foot-4, 227 pounds), a big arm and some running ability. Faulkner rushed 60 times for 237 yards last season despite missing three games with a broken finger.
Faulkner also did well in his annual showdown against Eastern Illinois and Garoppolo, a game any quarterback-needy NFL evaluator likely checked out. Faulkner threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns, and Garoppolo, taken in the second round by the New England Patriots, had 440 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, but Eastern Illinois won in double overtime.
“That was a big game for me because a lot of people were watching Jimmy Garoppolo,” Faulkner said. “I just went out there and competed.”
Harbaugh followed up his film sessions with a phone call in April. Then, three weeks before the draft, Harbaugh met with Faulkner after attending a ceremony honoring his brother, John, at Miami (Ohio) University.
After Faulkner was bypassed in the draft, the 49ers signed him to a free-agent contract. The rookie quarterback has spent the last two weeks working out and practicing alongside the team’s other, more established passers: Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert, Josh Johnson and McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
So far, Harbaugh likes what he’s seen.
“He is really diligent. He is really into it. He’s really conscientious and it shows up when he comes out here,” Harbaugh said. “He’s calling the plays in the huddle, he’s moving the offense, getting them up to the line of scrimmage and making very few mistakes. You can tell that he’s studying.”
Harbaugh said he was happy to hear Faulkner even has been practicing his dropbacks after hours in the hallway of the team hotel.
Said Faulkner: “I’m not going to do it in the bedroom – there’s beds. So I went in the hallway and started doing some footwork stuff. It kept me busy, but I’m still not where I want to be.”