DENVER - In the 2016 NFL season, there were 11 Colorado Buffaloes playing in the league. If things go the right way, that number could nearly double at the beginning of this season.
During this year's draft, four Buffs were selected, not long after, four more were signed as undrafted free agents and three received mini-camp invites. Out of those 11, four went to the San Fransico 49ers.
Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon was the first Buffalo to become a 49er when he was selected in the third round at pick 66. Witherspoon led the nation in passes defended in 2016.
Pass rusher Jimmie Gilbert signed with the team as an undrafted free agent following the draft. Gilbert finished tied for sixth all-time at Colorado in quarterback sacks (20).
Center Alex Kelly and Defensive end Samson Kafovalu were both invited to mini-camp.
On Friday, at the annual John Lynch Salute the Stars Luncheon, the new 49ers GM spoke about the two Buffs that he signed.
"Ahkello is a rare talent," he said to media at Sports Authority Field. "A guy who’s almost 6-3, sure looked like 6-3 to me when he came in, but he’s also extremely quick and can get in and out of breaks. For the scheme we’re playing at corner, that’s a great fit. We’re very encouraged about him."
"Jimmie Gilbert is a guy that, I think didn’t get drafted because he’s about 220 pounds right now," Lynch added. "But what a special opportunity to work with a young man like that because he’s productive. You look for pass rushers; you need them to be successful, he’s shown that ability, and we’re looking forward to having him with us, to see if he can compete and make this team so we can develop him."
The 49ers hadn't drafted anyone from CU since 1996 when they selected defensive end Daryl Price in the fourth round, but Lynch and the organization took notice of CU's sudden rise this past season.
“I give Mike MacIntyre a lot of credit," he said. "A lot of talent on that team, they weren’t the only ones we were interested in."
As Lynch's meeting with the media came to an end, BSN Denver asked him if former CU coach and current 49ers tight ends coach, John Embree was pounding on the table for some Buffs.