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49ers rookie OL Nick Zakelj could play center within the NFL

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Fordham Athletics

The San Francisco 49ers’ rookie minicamp kicked off Friday afternoon, with the 49ers revealing the rookie jersey numbers prior to media availability.

Sixth-round selection Nick Zakelj, who will wear No. 63, spoke with the media on Friday for the primary time since draft night and shared a somewhat interesting fact about his football childhood.

Zakelj is a Cleveland native, drawing a connection to Alex Mack, whom the rookie watched while growing up. Mack began his profession as a member of the Cleveland Browns, playing from 2009-2015 before stints with the Falcons and the 49ers.

“I feel definitely watching guys like Alex, especially growing up in Cleveland, being drafted, I feel, in 2008,” Zakelj said. “So I sort of been watching him since I used to be very young, and having the ability to see those great Browns O-linemen—him, Joe Thomas, Mitchell Schwartz—just sort of really having the ability to see how they’re in a position to affect defenses, move guys from point A to point B, and just sort of having the ability to hear second hand of how Alex was in a position to take the sport in and sort of what he was in a position to do. So I feel that is something really great to have the option to learn from someone like that.”

Zakelj addressed the thought of doubtless playing center for the 49ers, which was an concept that general manager John Lynch alluded to during his post-draft interviews.

“I feel that [playing center] is something that [John] Lynch and coach [Kyle Shanahan] mentioned to me on Draft Day. I sort of worked [on playing center] my senior yr, sort of wanting to deal with my versatility. Form of having the ability to play all five positions is something that I would like [to show].”

Zakelj played left tackle during his time at Fordham University, but experimented at guard throughout the Senior Bowl and improved because the week of practices went along.

Moreover, the 6’6, 315-pound offensive lineman tested off-the-charts on the Mix, compiling a 9.74 Raw Athletic Rating, showcasing his athletic ability, which is a staple of what the 49ers search for of their offensive linemen.

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