The San Francisco 49ers already hit one home run with an Appalachian State product when they landed Daniel Kilgore in the fifth round in 2011. The organization is hoping they’ve found another gem in Ronald Blair, a fellow Mountaineer selected with a fifth-round pick in 2016.
The two never crossed paths as college athletes, but San Francisco’s rookie defensive lineman remembers Kilgore returning to Appalachian State to speak to the team. Kilgore connected with Blair following this year’s draft to welcome him to the 49ers and provide a few words of wisdom.
“It’s really good, coming in as a rookie, to have someone who went to your school, was a legend at your school and has a great reputation,” Blair said.
Kilgore played in 48 total games for the Mountaineers, won a national championship in 2007 and received All-American honors in 2010. That resume is certainly deserving of the “legend” status that Blair mentioned, although the rookie has yet to say that directly to the 49ers center.
“I haven’t called him that to his face. You can’t do that,” Blair joked. “You have to do that to the media. He knows he’s a legend; you just don’t want to rub it in his face all the time so he doesn’t get big-headed.
“We definitely respect him there. Kilgore will always be a name that is held up high in Appalachian State country.”
This was all news to Kilgore when he recently joined the "49ers Live" set and heard Blair’s comments.
“There weren’t many Daniel Kilgore posters in Boone, N.C., when I was there, I promise you that,” he laughed. “I’ve got to ask him what this whole legend deal is about and where he’s getting these stories. That’s a very nice and polite comment.”
The respect is mutual. Blair comes to San Francisco following a decorated career of his own at Appalachian State. The defensive lineman’s 7.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in 2015 earned him First-Team All-Sun Belt honors.
Kilgore expressed plenty of school pride when speaking about his new teammate.
“Just to have somebody from your school on the same team in the pros is awesome – especially a smaller school, not one of the big-time schools," Kilgore said. "It’s really cool.”
According to San Francisco's veteran center, a shared alma mater won’t make their daily clashes in practice any less competitive. Kilgore and Blair are sure to see plenty of each other in the trenches.
“I’m absolutely not going to take it easy on him,” Kilgore reiterated. “He’s a heck of a ball player. He was team captain and a team leader and I believe he was the conference player of the year. I think competition will be good. I’ve got to show him I’ve still got it and live up to this whole legend stuff he’s talking about.”