McKivitz ready and excited for NFL debut
Colton McKivitz has been to three professional football games in his life.
He will experience his fourth on Sunday, and it will be nothing like the first three.
The former Union Local and West Virginia University standout will run out of the tunnel for the first time as a professional athlete and member of the San Francisco 49ers when they take on Arizona in the season opener.
“I am excited and ready to see where this goes,” McKivitz said during a phone interview Friday afternoon. “I will admit that I have some nerves (going into the game). It’s a lot like that first game at WVU, but it’s just way bigger. This is the biggest stage of them all and there’s no greater feeling than being a part of it.”
It was last Saturday when McKivitz got official word that he’d made the team. Though he felt like he had a strong camp, until it’s official, as a rookie, there’s always some anxiousness.
“I had gotten good feedback (from the coaches), but in this business, you just never know,” McKivitz said. “It was a relief and now I am looking forward to helping this team in any way I can.”
McKivitz admitted quickly that being back to — in essence — square one as a rookie is tough after spending last season as a fifth-year starter and captain for the Mountaineers.
“It’s a lot different than college,” McKivitz said. “As an older guy in Morgantown, you can get away with a little bit more and that’s not the case here. You absolutely have to bring your best every day because every guy on this roster can embarass you quickly if you don’t.”
This offseason was unlike any before it for the NFL players. There were no OTAs, training camps were held at the team facilities and there was nary a pre-season game for players, especially rookies, to get their feet wet.
Though McKivitz performed well enough in camp to not only secure a 53-man roster spot, validating the fifth-round pick the 49ers spent on him, and he’s listed second on the depth chart at guard, he admitted that he could have used a few of the pre-season games simply for additional time of acclimation.
“Through camp, it’s just like stacking days on top of each other,” McKivitz said. “Things (in the game) seem to happen a lot faster on the inside (of the line), so that’s been an adjustment. I definitely could have used the work in the pre-season games, but we’re all in the same boat in that way, so we just have to make the most of it.”
Along with the shift to guard, after being an All-American tackle for the Mountaineers, McKivitz has also gotten some work at center. It was actually the first time he snapped a ball since his sophomore year of high school when the Jets opened their season against Meadowbrook.
“I had to re-learn how to snap the ball,” McKivitz laughed. “Jimmy (Garopplo) got the ball each time, but it wasn’t the best (snap). Once we got rolling, and I got the first few out of the way, it went pretty well.”
The transition from college to the professional ranks can be a lot for any athlete. McKivitz is fortunate that he’s on a team that played in the Super Bowl in February. On top of that, there are a strong cast of veterans ahead of him, too.
“I’ve fit right in because it’s a great group of guys,” McKivitz said. “I’ve still had to do some of the rookie things like carry shoulder pads and things, so that’s tough to go from one of the top dogs back down the totem pole. I still wouldn’t change any of it. I enjoy working hard and I’ve been able to follow the leadership that’s here and learn from these guys. They’ve all accepted me and that’s an awesome feeling.”