BOONE — For the handful of former Appalachian State football players trying to make NFL rosters, current San Francisco 49ers defensive end and former App State defensive lineman Ronald Blair has some advice.
Basically, Blair recommends that the potential rookies do what they’ve been doing in college, only do it faster and more of it.
Blair said they need to do things faster and the need to prepare for opponents through film study increases in the NFL. Things that players could get away with in college don’t always work so well in the NFL, which means, according to Blair, that preparation is a key for success.
“It’s way faster,” Blair said. “We’ve really got to pay attention to detail. In the college game, you get off as fast as you can and then react. You’ve really got to pay attention to the guy in front of you. In the NFL, you’ve got to pay attention to what the (opposing) head coach loves doing. Then you’ve got to react to that.”
Blair was a fifth-round draft choice of the 49ers in 2016. He has good size being 6-foot-4, but weighs just 270 pounds, which is small by NFL standards.
No matter his size, Blair, 26, has survived long enough to rack up 10.5 career sacks with the 49ers. He credits his preparation for his success and longevity in the league.
“In the college game, you really just have to get off and react,” he said. “In the NFL, you’ve got to make sure you know what’s going on every play. If this guy is off-set, you have to make sure you know what he’s doing and if he’s off-set over here, you have to know what he is doing. If he’s on the line, what is he doing. You’ve got to make sure you pay attention to every little detail.”
He said film study is the best way to do that. He also said that college players are not trying to earn a living, while in the NFL, there are guys who families depend on, even if they are not the players who make millions.
“In the league, you’re going against guys who are trying to feed their families,” Blair said. “The good thing that helps me is I’ve got a lot of really great teammates, guys who are trying to feed their families. There are guys who are taller than me, guys who are faster than me, guys who are more athletic than me. I feel like they play to their abilities and I play to my abilities.”
The next thing on Blair’s professional football calendar are OTAs, which began June 3 and go until June 6. The 49ers have a minicamp June 11-13. Rookies and veterans report for the 49ers’ training camp on July 25. Their first preseason game is Aug. 10 at home against the Dallas Cowboys.
Even in the spring, Blair was ready to get back to work. He attended the App State spring game and said he wanted to jump out there and play.
“It’s the game of my dreams,” he said. “You feel like gladiators. You’re on the playing field and you’re just having fun and you’re playing the game that you love. I feel like the people who have trouble out there don’t really know what’s going on. If you do the film study and know what’s going on, it’s a whole lot of fun.”