SANTA CLARA — Late last December, 49ers general manager John Lynch and vice president of players personnel Adam Peters traveled Columbus, Ohio to watch Ohio State prepare for the Rose Bowl.
Coincidentally, on that same day, Nick Bosa, who had taken the season off to recover from a bilateral core muscle injury, made his first appearance since leaving the team earlier that year.
As the small slice of the 49ers brass watched practice come to a stand-still upon Bosa’s arrival, Lynch marveled as “one of the most beloved players” to come out of OSU was embraced by each and every one of his teammates and coaches.
“This guy shows up in sunglasses and shorts and organically, we watched this happen,” Lynch said. “That spoke volumes to me.”
Despite question marks surrounding his character and off-field political views, on Thursday night, San Francisco pounced on the opportunity to select Bosa — arguably the top edge rusher available — with the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft. The 49ers say they look forward to embracing Bosa just like his teammates did on that December afternoon.
“Nick Bosa is a player who we have long coveted and has grown in our appreciation,” Lynch said. “We’re very pleased to have him as a part of our organization and I think he adds to a very talented group.”
For the 49ers, creating a ferocious pass rush has been a goal that they set since Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan hired in 2016.
After the turbulent departure of former 49ers and Oakland Raiders defensive end Aldon Smith in 2015, San Francisco has been devoid of a player who possessed the abilities to set an edge or effectively rush the quarterback from that position.
“Two of the first things we talked about was finding our quarterback and finding the guys to knock them down,” Lynch said. “I think in quality and quantity, we’ve improved drastically in that respect.”
On March 13, it was announced that San Francisco had acquired defensive end Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for a 2020 draft pick. The addition of Ford meant that San Francisco had secured one edge rusher, but the other side of the defensive line was still vulnerable.
Over the last year, the 49ers spent and extensive amount of time studying the game of the top pash rushing prospects in the 2019 draft, Bosa in particular. Along with his lightning-fast first step and aggressive hand action, the 49ers said his versatile range of pass rushing moves jumped out. In addition, the fact that Bosa came from a 4-3 defense at Ohio State makes him the ideal fit as the transition to San Francisco’s defensive scheme under Robert Saleh will be minimal.
“Just the 4-3, pass rushing, edge-setting defense, it’s exactly what I’ve been doing my whole life,” Bosa said via conference call. “I think I’ll hop in and acclimate pretty quick.”
Playing in 30 games over three seasons as a Buckeye, Bosa recorded 77 tackles, 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss. In only three games during his 2018 campaign, the younger brother of Chargers defensive lineman Joey Bosa recorded four of those 17.5 sacks as well as two fumble recoveries.
Despite his on-field production, there were some off-field concerns with Bosa, an open conservative and supporter of President Donald Trump. Bosa’s social media engagements have been scrutinized in recent months.
In an article published by ESPN, he even admitted to scrubbing his Twitter account for off-color tweets and insensitive content because he predicted he’d land in San Francisco. It also surfaced that Bosa liked an Instagram post when he was a 16-year-old high school student that had homophobic and racist hashtags attached to it.
“I was a 16-year-old scrolling through Instagram and I liked a picture of somebody I knew with a girl,” Bosa said. “Obviously there were 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 that something like that is going to come back and bite you.”
The 49ers also responded to what many have deemed as red flags by stating that the man that they have spent the last year vetting is one that they are comfortable bringing into their own locker room and around the rest of their roster.
“I think it’s not right but it’s also not the person that we’ve been around,” Shanahan said. “That’s not the person that we believe he his and that’s not the person that we’ve been told he is by a lot of people that we trust.”
Despite the concerns regarding his political or world views, the 49ers have completely bought into Bosa and what they think he can bring to the table. As someone they believe can play all three downs, they’re ready to welcome their long awaited pass rushing threat with open arms.