New Smyrna Beach’s Mostert has his wor­ries

Orlando Sentinel - - Sports Friday - By Josh Dubow

Long be­fore the sports world had been shut down and when only one death from the coro­n­avirus had been re­ported in Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cisco 49ers run­ning back Ra­heem Mostert was con­cerned enough about the pan­demic to can­cel an ap­pear­ance at an au­to­graph show in early March.

Now more than two months later af­ter more than 90,000 deaths in the United States, in­clud­ing more than 3,000 in Cal­i­for­nia, that worry is still present for Mostert, a for­mer New Smyrna Beach High standout, and his wife, Devon, who is ex­pect­ing the cou­ple’s sec­ond child this fall.

“She has ac­tu­ally cried a cou­ple of times just be­cause she wants to make sure not only my­self but those 90 guys that are in the locker room are go­ing to all be safe, and their fam­i­lies as well,” Mostert said Wed­nes­day from his home in Cleve­land.

Mostert’s de­ci­sion back on March 4 to can­cel his ap­pear­ance at the Santa Clara County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter a few days later for an au­to­graph that also was ex­pected to in­clude lu­mi­nar­ies like Joe Mon­tana, Klay Thomp­son and Pa­trick Wil­lis was note­wor­thy be­cause there had been al­most no disruption at that time in sports in this coun­try.

That all changed the fol­low­ing week when the NBA and other leagues shut down. Mostert has re­mained home in Ohio ever since and is pre­par­ing for the up­com­ing NFL sea­son through vir­tual meet­ings.

But he knows that even­tu­ally he will re­turn to Cal­i­for­nia and be­gin prac­tice with his team­mates on the field. Cal­i­for­nia Gov­er­nor Gavin New­som said this week that if progress con­tin­ues at the cur­rent pace that sports could re­turn to the state with­out fans as early as next month.

NFL train­ing camp is sched­uled to be­gin in late July and Mostert and his fam­ily know that he will take part when that hap­pens.

“She un­der­stands that no mat­ter what, this is my job and I have to do what my job re­quires me to do, which is all fair,” he said. “She’s ex­cited as well. She wants foot­ball to be back and sports, to be back in gen­eral. … We don’t know what it’s go­ing to take for us to be out back out there on the field, test­ing every week and play­ing in a dif­fer­ent state or what have you. We don’t know yet. That’s some­thing that’s go­ing to be de­ter­mined once the time comes.”

When that hap­pens, Mostert will look to build on last year’s break­through sea­son. Af­ter be­ing cut by six teams and car­ry­ing the ball only eight times his first three sea­sons in the NFL, Mostert was a key part of San Fran­cisco’s NFC ti­tle win­ning sea­son in his fifth year in 2019.

He led the 49ers in rush­ing this sea­son with 772 yards and pro­vided the sig­na­ture per­for­mance of his ca­reer on the big stage of the NFC cham­pi­onship game when he ran for 220 yards and four touch­downs in a 37-20 win over Green Bay that sent the Niners to the Su­per Bowl.

Only Hall of Famer Eric Dick­er­son has rushed for more yards in a play­off game with 248 for the Rams against Dal­las on Jan. 4, 1986.

De­spite all that suc­cess, Mostert still has never started a game in the NFL as he has been mostly a part-time player who’s only game with at least 20 car­ries came against the Pack­ers in the play­offs.

He’s pre­par­ing for a heav­ier needed this sea­son by bulk­ing up.

“I’m ac­tu­ally gain­ing some more muscle, which was kind of bizarre just be­cause I haven’t really been able to think about gain­ing muscle be­cause I’ve al­ready had muscle like that,” he said. “But I’m just try­ing to in­cor­po­rate those things in my daily work­outs. So I’m able to you know take those hits and be one of those guys that are get­ting 200 car­ries. I have to get pre­pared for that. The only way I know how is to get bulky and stronger.”

Mostert is also look­ing to be­come a more ver­sa­tile player this sea­son on of­fense. The for­mer col­lege re­ceiver at Pur­due has not made a big im­pact in the pass­ing game as a pro.

He has just 20 catches for 205 yards in his ca­reer but hopes to con­trib­ute more in that as­pect in 2020.

“I don’t want to be just one-di­men­sional,” he said. “I want to be multi-di­men­sional and be­ing able to catch the ball out of the back­field is one of the things that I really pride my­self on. Even lin­ing up in the slot po­si­tion. There’s mul­ti­ple things I’ve been try­ing to work on. I’m just try­ing to get back to you know my wide re­ceiver days when I was play­ing re­ceiver in col­lege. Just get­ting back used to ev­ery­thing and do­ing ev­ery­thing.”

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JEFF CHIU/AP

49ers tail­back Ra­heem Mostert is worried about his fam­ily’s safety as he looks to re­sume team work­outs.

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