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Mike Iupati has started every game during the first three years of his NFL career with the 49ers. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SANTA CLARA -- Mike Iupati is the 49ers' quiet superstar.
Many others get the high-profile endorsement deals and camera time, but the 49ers' left guard has become every bit the NFL standout at his position as Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis.
Iupati just goes about his business without much fanfare. In his third NFL season, Iupati was a big reason the 49ers averaged 5.6 yards a carry on their 213 rushing attempts to the left side a year ago. He earned his first selection to the Pro Bowl and was chosen as a first-team All-Pro.
But the soft-spoken Iupati does not get too carried away with the national recognition he received as a result of last season.
"Mostly, I want to win," he said. "Personally, I want to be better than what I was last year. It's not about accolades. It's about improving my technique and getting better every snap."
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Iupati, an imposing 6-foot-5, 331 pounds, is known as a punishing force in the run game. But defensive linemen and linebackers are not the only things he hits hard. He is among a group of veteran players coach Jim Harbaugh said sets the tone for the entire team with maniacal workout habits.
"Mike Iupati is one of those guys who just hits it hard," Harbaugh said. "(He's) here in the morning along with all the other guys who hit it hard, hit it every day and come in extra. Mike's one of those morning guys.
"He's a 'Be-about-it guy' not a 'Talk-about-it kind of a player,' which is universally respected in the locker room. A strong, tough man."
He was plenty good when he arrived on the scene as the 49ers' No. 17 overall pick in the 2010 draft. Iupati mostly relied on brute force, but his work with offensive line coach Mike Solari helped him nail down the Week 1 starting job.
As he enters his fourth NFL season, Iupati has made every start in his career. Solari has been there every step. This will be his third season getting instruction from Tim Drevno, who shares the offensive line responsibilities with Solari. Former Washington State coach Paul Wulff is in his second year as senior offensive assistant with a focus on line play.
"The technique was there, but it's not as good as now," Iupati said of his rookie season. "I'm learning a lot from coach Solari and the offensive line staff -- Drevno, Wulff -- they're the ones who teach you everything, day in and day out. You just have to listen and absorb everything, and then execute it on the field."
The 49ers developed one of the best offensive lines in the NFL a year ago. And most of the group has a chance to remain together for a while.
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, who combines with Iupati to provide the 49ers with perhaps the best left side in the NFL, is signed through 2017. Right guard Alex Boone has three seasons remaining on his contract. And right tackle Anthony Davis, who was chosen six spots ahead of Iupati in the 2010 draft, signed a contract extension in April that averages more than $6.5 million annually through 2019.
Iupati, 26, is one of several young 49ers players in line for big second contracts. Iupati, Kaepernick, Aldon Smith and Michael Crabtree are signed through the 2014 season.
Iupati could become among the highest-paid guard in the NFL with his next contract. Currently, Tampa Bay's Carl Nicks averages $9.5 million annually, while New England's Logan Mankins and New Orleans' Jahri Evans average $8.5 million and $8.1 million per season.
There has been no significant progress toward an extension, and it's possible serious talks will not resume until after the season. Iupati made it clear he wants to remain with the 49ers for a long time.
But in the meantime, he said he tries not to think about his future beyond this season.
"I don't know," he said. "I have one more year (after the current season) left on my contract, and all I'm going to do is play my heart out and we'll see from there.
"I don't want to think about it and something doesn't go right, and this and that. I just play football."