If Tyre Ellison is a football household name, it’s only in his family’s San Francisco household.
He spent five seasons on the Cal football team and never earned a starting assignment. Until now, his biggest football moment may have been deflecting a two-point conversion pass to clinch his team’s win in the 2012 Cal spring game.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Ellison was among more than 50 recent college football seniors who showed off their stuff in front of the 49ers coaching staff at the club’s local pro day in Santa Clara.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Ellison said, “but it’s still football at the end of the day.”
Who knows what Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers staff think about Ellison? Who knows if they even noticed?
But in the shadow of a new NFL stadium being erected, Ellison wore a Niners practice jersey — No. 29 — and went through 90 minutes of drills.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the 49ers since I was younger,” he said. “Joe Montana was before my time, but Jerry Rice, J.J. Stokes, Garrison Hearst.
“Just to get back on the field, do some drills, especially with my fellow teammates. … This is definitely a great opportunity to be here at this facility.”
Ellison looks good on the field. He’s 6-foot-3 — tall for a defensive back — and moves well.
Asked if he imagines he is on the radar of any professional team, Ellison said, “People always talk about my frame — long arms, long legs. That’s great for matchups against taller receivers.”
Ellison grew up in a tough section of San Francisco, but had the grades to get into Cal and walked onto the football team. Eventually, he was awarded a scholarship.
“Growing up in a lower socio-economic community and having the opportunity, period, to go to college, and add on it to play sports … it was a dream come true and something I always worked for and strived to do,” Ellison said.
“That hard work and tenacity to always be a better young man, not only for myself but for my community and my family, that carried me a long way.”
In December, it carried him to a degree in social welfare.
“It took me a while,” he said, “but the job got done.”
And on Wednesday, all that patience and effort gave him a special moment on the 49ers practice field. He won’t concede that it was his last chance.
“I still want to play football.”