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George Kittle has turned pro in two different sports, hoping to be as big a hit in football as he is in wrestling.
Kittle left his Iowa City home for San Francisco Sunday to participate in the 49ers’ OTA (organized team activity) workouts for the next month. The former Iowa Hawkeyes tight end was a 49ers’ fifth-round draft pick last month.
Saturday night, Kittle made a surprise appearance at a professional wrestling event. He got into the ring following a match at an SCW (Scott County Wrestling) event in Walcott, Iowa, and gave a bad guy a Stone Cold Stunner, a move made famous by wrestler/actor Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The fans were delighted, but perhaps not as much as Kittle himself.
He high-fived the wrestlers in the ring who helped set up the move for him, and climbed the ropes with arms raised to play to the crowd.
“I felt like a kid,” Kittle said Sunday, a few hours before flying west to face his real job. “It was so much fun. People were cheering. I realized why people get into wrestling, with people feeding off your action. It was a thrill, something like coming out of the tunnel at Kinnick in the Swarm.”
“The fans went crazy for it,” said SCW head trainer Nick Morrill. “It was awesome. A crazy-good time.”
Last week, Kittle visited the Black and Brave wrestling academy Morrill co-owns in the Quad Cities with Bettendorf native/WWE star Seth Rollins. One thing led to another, and Kittle agreed to participate in the Walcott show.
“George is a huge wrestling fan and it was an opportunity for him to live out a dream,” Morrill said.
Kittle did nothing to give the 49ers worry that he was putting himself at physical risk.
“My agent said it was OK as long as I wasn’t in harm’s way,” he said. “I wasn’t.”
One of SCW’s wrestlers is Steve Manders, a former walk-on fullback at Iowa. He was in the match that ended with Kittle entering the ring from the crowd.
“As I was about to get beat up by three guys,” Manders said Monday, “George came in to help his boy out. Then two other guys came in to make it 4-on-3, and George did the Stone Cold Stunner on a guy.”
Manders will be in a wrestling show Friday night at Gabe’s in downtown Iowa City. Kittle will be there in spirit only. His new job beckons this week in the San Francisco area.
“I’ve got a lot going on,” he said, “from meeting teammates to proving I belong there.”
There’s also off-field stuff to resolve. Moving across the country is daunting. Kittle said he’ll wait to secure a full-time residence until his girlfriend joins him there in August.
“After I got drafted the first thing I looked up was that San Francisco was the second-most expensive city in the country and San Jose was the fifth,” Kittle said. “But it’s beautiful there.”
Kittle has already been to the 49ers’ complex in Santa Clara twice, once for a pre-draft interview and another for their rookies’ minicamp. He isn’t without friends there. The Niners drafted Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard in the third round.
“I’ve got a little familiarity there,” he said. “C.J. (Beathard) is there, and two guys are there that I worked out with in Dallas before the draft. I’ve got a lot of positive vibes.”
There’s no reason to doubt Kittle will make the 49ers’ active roster. But if he doesn’t …
“I told him if the football thing doesn’t work out for him,” Morrill said, “he’s got a future in professional wrestling.”