49ers rookie Quinton Patton shows up early, impresses his new coach, but has to go back home

Louisiana Tech receiver Quinton Patton really impressed me during Senior Bowl week. Practices in such pre-draft events give lesser-known players a marvelous opportunity to shine in front of fans, media, and NFL personnel. Patton made the most of it, showing a great overall skill set (if less than optimal field speed), and that started him on a path which resulted in the San Francisco 49ers selecting Patton in the fourth round. Given San Francisco's nebulous receiver situation, Patton could make an impression on the field in his rookie campaign.

He's already caught the eye of head coach Jim Harbaugh, a man who is not easily impressed. After he was drafted, Patton wanted to get right to work, and didn't wait for the usual team-issued plane ticket -- instead, he paid for his own seat on a plane, arrived at San Francisco International Airport on Monday, rented a car, and started the drive to the team's Santa Clara facility. He called ahead to let the 49ers know that he was about 20 minutes away, which turned out to be fortuitous.

Had Patton shown up at his new team's main complex as he intended and started conditioning work, he would have been ineligible to attend the 49ers' rookie minicamp, which starts on May 10. The team arranges transportation for all such visits, and the rookies are set to arrive on May 9. You see, per NFL rules, rookies have a 24-hour period after they are drafted to visit team facilities and do any football work, and Patton was outside the window.

Still, Harbaugh was delighted to see his new player's initiative.

"We didn't do a very good job of communicating that to Quinton before he got to the airport," Harbaugh told San Francisco radio station KNBR, via CSN Bay Area. "But the fact that he would buy his own ticket and fly out here, to me, just speaks volumes about him. I mean, to be honest with you, he reminds me of me. That's something I would've done.

"I love it. I can't wait. It's probably the best money he's ever spent even though he had to fly out here and fly back home."

Patton will have to shine it on for another week, but he couldn't have made a better impression.

"If he plays for 10 or 15 years in this league, every time somebody talks about Quinton Patton they're going to recall the story," Harbaugh concluded. "'He was so gung-ho to get his NFL career started that he flew out to San Francisco on his own dime.

"Isn't that awesome? Isn't that just awesome? He is already my favorite guy."

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