Jauan Jennings loves playing football. It’s obvious when he speaks to the media after a game. It’s obvious when he’s dancing on the field in practice or pregame warm-ups. It’s obvious after he makes a play. He loves football.

“I know for me, just being a guy in my 12th year, it energizes you when you see that type of raw emotion,” said 49ers All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams. “…[T]o see him living out his dreams and to see that it really means a lot to him, he doesn’t take it for granted. He’s not one of those guys that wakes up and says, ‘I’m supposed to be here. I deserve to be here.’ He works every day for his spot. He’s worked up the depth chart, he’s worked up the roster…He has a very infectious type of energy that he brings to the huddle, that he brings to the locker room.”

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When wide receiver Mohamed Sanu Sr. suffered a knee injury in November, Jennings got an opportunity to come in and make a difference in San Francisco.

“It’s humbling to get drafted in the seventh round, to get cut, to go on the practice squad, to get hurt and not play,” Jennings said in Week 18. “All that humbles you. It’s how you bounce back. This team makes it easy to bounce back. No matter how great or bad the play is, somebody is in your corner to pick you up.”

The 49ers lost wide receiver Kendrick Bourne to free agency and the New England Patriots this past offseason, and though they’re different players and different people, Jennings has been able to fill that void in multiple ways.

“You guys know how we felt about [New England Patriots WR Kendrick] Bourne around here his first few years, where I used to call him kind of our mascot, because his personality never changed and Jauan’s similar,” Shanahan said. “They’re definitely different though, but he brings that same type of energy and Jauan, he’s going so hard. He’s always borderline, I’d say 95% blacked out, which makes you play at certain level, which is awesome. But that 5%, he knows how to play within the lines and be smart about it…I remember Deebo [Samuel] saying to me, yesterday, he couldn’t believe some of the stuff Jauan was doing out there during the game. When you see guys play that way and have that attitude, it’s very inspiring. And it makes you enjoy football, just being around him. And I think that’s why people like watching him too and he’s helped us a ton.”

49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel has seen the similarities as well, especially when it comes to where Jennings is most counted on and most effective.

“[A]s far as the play, it’s when a lot of reps come on third down, third down’s where the most man is, so you better be able to separate and have some route-running skills,” McDaniel said. “…[T]hey go against the same people that everyone else does. We motion and formation things in multiple ways and we don’t really have one-trick ponies in the sense that you have to be able to operate in the slot and you have to be able to operate outside. So he’s been doing an outstanding job as he’s gained opportunities, and much in the way that we relied on Kendrick Bourne, we’ve become accustomed to relying on him as well.”

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On a third down play in the 49ers-Jaguars Week 10 match-up, Jennings delivered a block that Jacksonville safety Rayshawn Jenkins did not enjoy. The two had words with Jenkins ultimately punching Jennings and subsequently being ejected.

“I was just proud of him for doing that and getting us a very important 15-yard penalty because we had just got stopped on third-and-3 on the jet sweep,” Shanahan said the day after the game. “I just told him great job, now put your helmet on…”

After last Sunday’s six receptions for 94 yards and two touchdown performance against the Los Angeles Rams, Shanahan said “Jauan was a man today.” Jennings echoed that sentiment after the game.

“I’ve grown up a lot,” Jennings said. “This game of football will make you grow up. This team believes in me and encourages me, and I’m grateful to be here.”

The thing with the game of football is that it is just that – a game. The NFL is a business and a big one, but at the end of the day, these are grown men playing a game and it should be fun.

“That’s where Jauan is special because there is a fine line between you want to be hyped up and everything, but in the big moments you want to be locked in and Jauan does a good job of that,” Garoppolo said. “He knows when to separate it. In the locker room, he is the life of the party. He’s fun to be around. But then when you’re in the huddle…I look into the guy’s eyes and he’s as locked in as anyone in that huddle. So he does a great job of towing that line. And those are the guys you want in the huddle with you, someone you could look at and know they’re in it with you.”

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The 49ers have another guy on offense with an infectious and fun personality, but who is as locked in as they come when the game starts. That is tight end George Kittle, and he can appreciate Jennings as much as anyone on the field.

“Jauan’s a guy that, you’ve just got to let Jauan be Jauan,” Kittle said. “And he’s going to show up. You guys got to trust that he’s responsible enough to do whatever he needs to do and he is going to show up and play at a high level, which he does…[Y]ou can tell how much he loves the game. He definitely has a lot of fun in the locker room, but when he goes out there, he’s out there to earn the respect of his teammates, which is what you want in a football player.”

As the 49ers take the field in their Wild Card game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. PT, keep an eye out for No. 15. He’ll be the man having the time of his life.



Tracy Sandler

Tracy Sandler

I created Fangirl Sports Network as a place for female sports fans to follow their favorite teams with content and coverage that speaks directly to females. It started with one and then eight and now 32 NFL Fangirls and 15 NBA Fangirls.