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Beat down or no beat down, the San Francisco 49ers, 42-10, win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5 came with some big moments. Tight end George Kittle wasn’t fazed.

“There was a play last week, crucial third down, and the camera was in the huddle, and George jumped up and tried to touch it,” said 49ers’ fullback Kyle Juszczyk. “I’m like, ‘The play’s being called right now. What are you doing?!’ But no, it really doesn’t seem to affect him. I think that goes back to…his personality and wanting to be very fun and just goofy. Doing that stuff gets him in the zone. Other people want to go to a dark place and zone in. That’s not how George gets going. George gets going by doing those silly things. He always, I don’t know, I almost think he likes to distract himself a little bit of what’s going on in the moment.”

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49ers running back Christian McCaffrey was there for the moment too and felt it was very George Kittle, in the best way.

“For somebody to be that charismatic all the time, there are a few people in your life that come around that are like that, and he’s one of them and just a fun person to be around,” McCaffrey said.

Kittle has developed from a 2017 fifth-round pick out of The University of Iowa into one of the league’s top tight ends, and he’s done so by being unapologetically himself.

“We didn’t know how special he’d be, but we knew we got a steal right away,”
said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “Then I think his second year is when he broke all those records. But it’s funny, you go back and watch his film from the first year and he had no ponytails, socks were pulled up perfect, no wristbands. Now you watch him now and he is a WWE rockstar. So it’s been fun to be with him this whole time.”

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More on the WWE part later.

“He’s obviously a fun person, but he’s also just a pleasure to be around, because he’s professional,” said 49ers’ tight end Charlie Woerner. “He’s going to show up and do what he needs to do. He’s very giving. He’s just a good person. He’s fun to be around, fun to work with for a lot of different reasons.”

Kittle may not go to a dark place, so to speak, but he does channel a somewhat dark character on gameday, as the tight end has long held a fascination for the Joker.

“That character just always stuck out to me as just someone who just enjoys what they’re doing and laughs through it – laughs through the pain, laughs through the questions, the uncertainty of it. You just enjoy as much as you can and whatever happens, happens…The unhingedness of it too, that’s kind of what football is. You have to have a screw loose, or two, to be good at it, in my opinion. And so that’s one of my favorite things about him.”

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In football, even if you’re not going to a dark place, sometimes you have to channel your darker side.

“I think George was particularly inspired by the Heath Ledger Joker, his ability to kind of take care of things physically when he needed to and be successful in that, and also really intelligent,” said Kittle’s father, Bruce Kittle. “But there was a dark side to it, because at some point you can’t balance other people’s feelings in order to beat their ass…

“George is a pretty good-natured, respectful, kind person. And I think he needed a little extra element that would let him flip over to the dark side and possess a spirit and the energy on the football field that might not normally be his first card pulled.”

For 49ers’ quarterback Brock Purdy, Kittle changed the way he’s approached the game, reminding him that they are grown men playing a game and, though it’s a business, it should still be enjoyed.

“When I first got here and I saw him doing all this stuff, I’m like, ‘Dude, how can you have fun and enjoy those little things and then still walk in and play football?’, Purdy said. “I’ve always been like, if I do any of that, it’s going to throw me off somehow, some way. But I get here and I see him laughing, waving at the camera, doing all this crazy stuff, and then literally, in a second, he can turn, listen to the play, go out, break a safety off on a 30-yard touchdown. But that’s him. He has fun with it. Sort of made me realize, man, this is football, you can have fun with it. Yes, you can be locked in and still have fun. So, I’ve learned a lot from George.”
That mindset is one Kittle has had with him since the beginning of his NFL career.
“Since his rookie year, he has been really good about separating life off the football field and then obviously life on the field,” said Kittle’s wife, Claire Kittle. “And when he crosses that plane, it’s go time and it’s work time. And he is the most talented that I’ve ever seen at switching that flip and kind of finding that alter ego that he wants to turn into when he’s on the football field, which I think for any successful athlete you need a little bit of that.”

Back to the WWE, of which Kittle is a very big fan. 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga has been to a few matches with Kittle, including one a couple weeks back.

“It’s lit, I ain’t going to lie,” Hufanga said. “Being able to sit ringside with him, it’s been pretty dope. I think that was my third time now….I’m just thankful for George allowing me to be in there with his close-knit friends and and being able to witness something like that. I grew up watching it a little bit with my close friends from back home. So I think it’s cool that I got to see it, what it’s really like in person.”

Kittle has a Joker tattoo on his forearm that serves a purpose beyond aesthetics.

“One of the main reasons for the Joker tattoo was I’m big into reset buttons,” Kittle said. “I used to draw a circle on my wrist tape in college to reset my mindset after every single play, so I wouldn’t let things snowball…It’s a whole black and white tattoo, red lifts, that’s kind of my reset button. That’s what it started as.”

National Tight Ends day is coming up at the end of the month. Though the term was coined by now-Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, there would be no such thing without George Kittle.

“I think his personality is amazing for the sport,” Claire Kittle said. “He has, I want to say, transformed the tight end position and brought so much more eyeballs to the position and more love to the position. I would think in every household we know what that tight end position is, and a couple years ago, that may not have been the case.”

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The NFL fined Kittle over $13,000 this week for revealing a “F*** Dallas” t-shirt that was under his jersey after a fourth-quarter 49ers touchdown. The shirt was a shout out to a similar shirt Gary Plummer wore for the 1994 NFC Championship game.

“I wore a personalized T-shirt, maybe an inappropriate word, so it is what it is,” Kittle said earlier in the week before the fine was handed down. “It was a decision I made. If they want to fine me, they fine me…I’d do it again.”


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It’s a business, but it’s a game.

“When he was growing up…we had three guidelines for youth sports,” Bruce Kittle said. “One is to do your best, work hard every day. Two is try to get better at something every day. And three was to have fun. I mean, because it’s a game…We tried to bring that to everything. And so part of the grind, that’s just part of the game…It’s the whole winning the lottery thing. Every day I see him or talk to him, it’s just still, you’re kind of pinching.

“It’s like we’re riding this a hundred-foot wave, and there’s only a few people also that get to ride it. And you know the wave is going to come down eventually, but right now it’s still riding high and strong, and we are nothing but grateful for having a surfboard big enough to be able to ride on top of that thing.”