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SANTA CLARA – Pass-rusher Aaron Lynch has been considered a first-round talent since he blasted onto the college football scene with Notre Dame in 2011.
He transferred to South Florida after his freshman season and became seen as unmotivated and a character risk. On Saturday, the 49ers selected Lynch in the fifth round to cushion his fall on the third day of the NFL Draft.
“Everybody’s right,” Lynch said. “I am a first-round talent, but I made some mistakes in my past. And I figured that’s what hurt me a little bit. I’m just so excited that the 49ers came around and got me in the fifth round.”
Lynch seemed genuinely grateful to be chosen in the draft. And it did not matter what round he is entering the NFL after admittedly making several misteps throughout his football career.
“Most were mistakes that people my age make,” Lynch said. “They weren’t mistakes like robbing or things like that. But they’re mistakes that weren’t supposed to happen associated with football. And I chose to do those things, so those things hurt me in the end.
“But I’m just happy for the opportunity I’ve waited my entire life to be drafted. This is my dream. I don’t know how to express how I’m feeling right now. It’s amazing. First round. Seventh round. It doesn’t matter. They picked me up in the fifth, and I’m so excited that somebody took the time out of their time to take a chance with me.”
Lynch traveled to Santa Clara recently to meet with the 49ers, who wanted to get to know Lynch better due to his character concerns. He said that meeting paved the way for his union with the 49ers.
“I spoke with the GM (Trent Baalke) probably three or four times when I was up there,” Lynch said. “I had a great time speaking with the defensive line coach (Jim Tomsula) and the defensive coordinator (Vic Fangio) and coach (Jim) Leavitt. My interaction with all them was just amazing. I’m pretty sure that’s why they came around and picked me up because we clicked.”
Lynch said his association with Leavitt, the former South Florida coach, dates back to his high school days in Cape Coral, Fla.
Lynch has physical attributes that match favorably with 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Lynch weighed 249 at the NFL Scouting Combine but said his optimum playing weight is 260. He said he lost a lot of weight during the year he sat out after his transfer from Notre Dame due to prescribed use of Adderall. Lynch said he is no longer on the drug, he said.
The 49ers could turn to Lynch as a pass-rusher if Smith is lost for any time due to a possible NFL suspension. Even with Smith available, Lynch could work into a role as part of a pass-rush rotation.
“He’s an amazing, amazing football player,” Lynch said of Smith. “I watched his game. I’ve watched film on him. I watch the way he plays. He’s amazingly athletic. He’s got a great motor, too. He’s a little more developed than me because he’s been in the league. He’s a phenomenal football player and I’d love to learn from him.”