Alfredo Gutierrez, a Mexico native, made his NFL debut at the end of the 49ers’ preseason win over the host Minnesota Vikings.
Alfredo Gutiérrez crooned “I love the feeling, I love it, man” as he walked off a NFL field on August 20th for the first time in a game-used 49ers jersey.
Once inside the 49ers’ victorious locker room, Gutiérrez received the ceremonial game ball from coach Kyle Shanahan, a poignant gesture to celebrate a debut that was a long-time coming.
Gutierrez, 26, a native of Tijuana, Mexico, joined the 49ers last year through the NFL’s International Player Pathway program.
“All of a sudden, I didn’t know what to say. I said whatever was on my mind,” Gutierrez recalled of his locker room speech. “I wanted to say, ‘Congratulations to the whole team.’ But I said, ‘Congratulations to me. And thank you to the guys.’
“I almost said it in Spanish. I almost forgot English for a second. I was pretty nervous, shaking a little bit.”
That is similar to how he felt before entering the 17-7 preseason affair against the host Minnesota Vikings. Gutierrez, a 6-foot-9, 332-pound tackle, was on the line for the final four offensive snaps
“Guys were pumped up,” Shanahan said. “It was his first time playing so we wanted to give him (the game ball). He’s been great having him around here. He’s everyone’s best friend on the team and helps us out throughout the week, too.”
“They said to stay ready, like every game,” Gutierrez added. “But they told me at the end I was going to go in. So, you know, butterflies in the stomach, started getting happy, my mouth started getting dry, but, finally, yeah, I got in.”
Gutierrez did not play last preseason and spent all year on the practice squad, where he’s assured a spot this season.
A raw project, Gutierrez played football his last two years at Montgomery High School in San Diego before returning to Mexico and winning a college football championship there, at Monterrey Tech.
Has he improved at the bottom of a depth chart topped by All-Pro Trent Williams?
“I’m a lot better, thanks to everybody, my teammates, and especially coach (Chris Foerster), who’s been on my butt,” Gutierrez said. “I’m a different player. I still have a lot to learn and improve on, but I’m a different player now.”
As for Shanahan’s line about Gutierrez being “everyone’s best friend,” multiple players endorsed it, including defensive linemen who oppose him in practice.
“When I had a problem a few weeks ago, he was right there by my side, making sure I was cool and everything like that,” said rookie defensive end Drake Jackson. “Man, big ups to him for getting some actual playing time… That’s a beautiful scene right there. I was so happy when I saw him go out there.”
“He’s my guy,” said 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, another guy who had a big night Saturday.
Gutierrez can thank rookie safety Tayler Hawkins for getting him onto the field. With barely two minutes left in the game, Hawkins intercepted a Minnesota pass.
“Finally, man. It took one year,” Gutierrez said as he walked off the U.S. Bank Stadium field. “Pretty cool, man. Pretty cool. I love the feeling. I love it, man.”