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Former Boilermaker Raheem Mostert talks toughness, NFL

Raheem Mostert is in the third year of his three-year $8.9 million contract with the 49ers.
Raheem Mostert is in the third year of his three-year $8.9 million contract with the 49ers. (USA Today Sports)

Raheem Mostert still relishes when people underestimate him.

Having spent time with seven NFL teams, and now in the final year of his nearly $3 million-a year contract with the 49ers, his mindset hasn't changed much, if at all.

"It has been a journey for me, and it always is going to be," said Mostert, who was in town on Sunday for the Joe Tiller Chapter of Northwest Indiana National Football Foundation honors brunch. "I will always be in the underdog role, and I love it."

For Mostert, brought to Purdue from New Smyrna Beach, Fla., by coach Danny Hope, it is all about perseverance. And he was awarded for just that when he was selected as the 2020 recipient of the Drew Brees Mental Toughness Award. Due to COVID and the rescheduling of the Honors Dinner to late July in 2020, he was unable to attend last year. His opportunity came this past Sunday.

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Mostert excelled as a kickoff return specialist at Purdue, leading the FBS with an average of 33.5 yards per return as a freshman and setting a school record with 2,289 career kick return yards.

But Purdue failed to fully utilize Mostert’s dominant speed on offense, bouncing him around between wide receiver and running back throughout his tenure in West Lafayette. The blazing speed that earned him several 60m, 100m, and 200m Big Ten track championships was rarely fully unleashed by the Boilermakers. Mostert carried the ball just 43 times in his first three seasons before playing a bigger role as a senior with 93 carries for 529 yards.

"I always knew I could do it," Mostert said. "My career didn't work out perfectly on the football field at Purdue, but that never stopped me from believing I was the baddest guy on the field.

"I love Purdue, and had a great experience as a student and I can't thank all the people that supported me enough."

Mostert had challenges off the field. Back home in Florida, his brother was shot four times by Mostert's former father figure. His brother survived and they talk frequently, but it was a harrowing experience for Mostert. It is part of the mental toughness message he tries to deliver when in front of an audience as he was on Sunday.

'There is always going to be adversity, no matter what," Mostert said. "It is all about staying mentally tough and doing what you can do."

And Mostert was tested early and often after finishing up at Purdue after the 2014 season. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent. He was cut by six different teams in 2015 and 2016 before finding a home with the 49ers. He is now preparing for his seventh NFL season.

Mostert spent time on the practice squad, injured reserve, and the active roster between 2016-2018, seeing time at running back and on special teams, before his breakout 2019 season. Mostert excelled in coach Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme, running for 772 yards and eight touchdowns to help a dominant 49ers run offense finish the regular season with a 13-3 record.

Mostert followed up his solid regular season with a record-breaking post-season. After rushing 12 times for 58 yards in a 27-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Mostert set a franchise post-season record with 220 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers. Mostert’s performance ranked as the second most single-game rushing yards in an NFL post-season game behind Eric Dickerson’s 248 in 1986.

The performance led the 49ers into the Super Bowl for only the second time in 26 years, commanding lots of attention on the world stage.

He and Devon - who also attended Purdue - married in 2017. They have a two-year-old son, Gunnar, whom they named after Mostert’s former special teams position. Their second son, Neeko, was born last fall.

And how does Mostert feel headed into the 2021 season?

"My health is perfect, and I am ready to run through a brick wall for the 49ers," Mostert said.

With speed to burn and a positive attitude that is his foundation, one can reasonably expect that Mostert will have another productive year in the NFL.

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