Laken Tomlinson's smarts, skills a fit for 49ers' offense

Matt Maiocco
NBC Sports BayArea

SANTA CLARA -- His three seasons with the Detroit Lions did not go the way he hoped. Things with that organization seldom seem to go in a positive way.

Although his world was shaken last August upon learning of his trade to the 49ers, guard Laken Tomlinson was not altogether upset, either.

"Coming out here was just another opportunity to exercise my skillset and my playing style to these coaches," Tomlinson said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. "I saw it as another opportunity and I was very excited about it."

He was in the starting lineup just two weeks later, and after showing consistent progress as the season progressed, the 49ers locked him up in June to an $18 million contract extension through the 2021 season.

Tomlinson, 26, will go up against his former team for the first time, as the Detroit Lions come to Levi's Stadium on Sunday for a matchup featuring squads that lost during Week 1 of the regular season. Tomlinson was a first-round pick of the Lions in 2015.

Tomlinson, who moved from Jamaica to Chicago when he was 10 years old and became a U.S. citizen in March 2017, believes he has found a home with the 49ers in coach Kyle Shanahan's system.

It's a system that places a lot of strain on the guards. And Tomlinson, who has aspirations of becoming a doctor after a long NFL career, can certainly handle the mental aspect of the game.

"I think that was one of the first things I learned very quickly when I got into the system last year," Tomlinson said. "It was how much different the work was for the guards, compared to the system I was used to at the time. I trusted in it and studied my butt off."

Tomlinson credited veteran offensive linemen Joe Staley and Daniel Kilgore, as well as line coaches John Benton and Adam Stenavich, in helping with the transition to a more demanding system.

"I completely bought in," Tomlinson said. "The system requires a lot from the guards, not only to be smart but to be extremely agile and I believed and they trusted I could bring that to the table."

In addition to being an All-American at Duke, Tomlinson earned degrees in evolutionary anthropology and psychology. He said he believes the positives of playing football far outweigh the risks involved in the sport.

"I figured playing football would elevate my career path in the future," Tomlinson said. "I think I can use football as a steppingstone into any field. I think that applies to anyone, really. Obviously, it's a very violent game. Things happen. But if you're ever so blessed to come out the back end healthy, it could be such a great steppingstone into whatever field you step into."

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