What 49ers' George Kittle will miss most about Joe Staley is surprising

Jennifer Lee Chan
NBC Sports BayArea

Former 49ers teammates George Kittle and Joe Staley have shared many hilarious moments on camera, but the memories Kittle will cherish the most are those that happened behind the scenes.

While Kittle and the newly-retired Staley are known for their shenanigans when the film is rolling, the tight end says it's another side of Staley that is closer to his heart. 

In his farewell video to Staley, Kittle got a little emotional knowing that he won't be lining up next to the left tackle on the field again. But surprisingly, their relationship didn't start out that close. 

In fact, Kittle was hesitant to talk to Staley when he first arrived in Santa Clara.

"I knew that he was a lot older than me so I was slightly intimidated," Kittle told reporters Tuesday. "I don't know if I talked to him for the first couple of days during OTAs. I just kind of avoided him because he was old and scarier."

The two hit it off a little later, after Staley approached the rookie during a practice. Kittle said it's a conversation that he likely will never forget. 

"One of my first memories of Joe was after an OTAs practice," Kittle said. "He just completely out of the blue, came up and put his arm around me and was just like, ‘I hope you don't screw this up. You could actually be a decent football player, so just keep your head on straight.'"

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Staley became an immediate role model for Kittle. Since his early days with the 49ers, Kittle would watch the veteran left tackle, study how he worked and the things he did. He respected Staley for how high he set the bar.

"There's not enough that you can say about Joe Staley," Kittle said. "He's absolutely incredible with everything he does. For me personally, one of my favorite things about Joe is he embodies absolutely everything about football that I think football should be about. 

"The hard-working, [the] grit, how much fun he has playing the game, the work he puts into it, how much better he is at playing that position than a lot of other people in the league, how much he just loves the game of football." 

It's no coincidence that Kittle shows the same love for the game on the field. 

Kittle wouldn't share all of his personal memories with Staley, but when asked for his favorite, the tight end surprisingly spoke about a serious moment. Kittle ultimately found it to be one of the most inspirational things he has heard from the veteran. 

"There was a play in the Vikings game when I got rolled up on," Kittle said. "And he picked me up and he said, 'You don't ever let anyone see you hurt. These guys need to look at you and they need to look up to you. Don't ever let anyone see you like that.' It was very motivational."

[RELATED: Why Staley is happy things worked out for 49ers, Williams]

Kittle already has emerged as a leader in the locker room, but even he says that it will take more than one person to fill the leadership role that Staley held

"I don't think there's any replacing Joe Staley," Kittle said. "But I think what Joe did such a great job of was, he did instill a lot of values and virtues in all the guys he got to communicate with. We are going to have guys, we are all going to have an opportunity to step up, and kind of fill the shoes that Joe left behind. I don't think there's any one person who can do it but I think we have a great group of guys that can come together to fill that role." 

What 49ers' George Kittle will miss most about Joe Staley is surprising originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

What to Read Next