Former Cal Poly Football fullback Joe Protheroe is participating in the San Francisco 49ers Rookie Minicamp from May 3-5 in Santa Clara for a chance to participate in the team’s training camp this summer.
“The NFL experience … everyone out here works hard, just like [everyone] did at Cal Poly,” Protheroe said after a practice session Friday. “Here, you’re being watched for everything so you just gotta make sure … everything’s good.”
Protheroe was invited as an undrafted free agent and is looking to make the 90-man training camp roster.
“It stung for sure, I was hurt,” Protheroe said of going undrafted and unsigned after the 2019 NFL Draft. “But at the same time, getting an invite is a blessing.”
Protheroe is Cal Poly Football’s all-time leader in rushing yards, with 4,271 yards through his five years as a Mustang. NFL teams hold minicamps to familiarize newly drafted or signed rookies with the NFL’s style of play. Unsigned players, like Protheroe, are brought in hoping to be noticed and offered a spot on the training camp roster.
“I think I left the impression that I’m willing to learn,” Protheroe said. “That’s the most important thing, coming from the triple option offense and trying to transition into pro-style offense.”
In his first day of the minicamp, Protheroe said he was walked through different plays before running them full-speed with other recruits on the 49ers practice field.
“I learned today that the NFL is a lot faster than college ball, walkthrough-wise and everything,” Protheroe said.
The Associated Press’ 2018 FCS All-American rushed for more than 200 yards in four games in his senior season.
After a 2017 season-ending MCL tear, Protheroe returned to break Cal Poly’s single-season rushing record by rushing for 1,810 yards across 861 carries in his final year.
Protheroe joined 40 other undrafted players on a tryout basis with the 49ers, competing for one of 90 spots for San Francisco’s training camp starting in July. On August 31, they will cut the roster down to 53 players.
“If they don’t pull me up on the 90-man roster, it’s not the end of the world,” Protheroe said. “I’ll go home Saturday, get to see my kids Saturday instead of seeing them on Sunday … so that’s the positive.”
Other NFL teams will host their own rookie minicamps from May 10-13.