SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Less than a week after the San Francisco 49ers used their 10th and final draft pick on him, defensive back Adrian Colbert had already taken some time to reflect on the journey that landed him at Levi's Stadium for rookie minicamp. But that time for reflection didn't extend to an appetite for offering details about his difficult road.
"It was tough, but everything that you go through is something that is going to make you stronger, especially if you get through it like I did," Colbert said.
The short version looks something like this. When Colbert was 9 in Wichita Falls, Texas, he was riding his bike with some friends after leading his youth football team to a victory when a car struck him. He spent more than a week in a coma at a Fort Worth hospital and was told he'd never play football again and he might never run again. After two weeks in the hospital and a lengthy rehabilitation, Colbert eventually returned, not only to walking and running, but also to football.
While Colbert still thinks about the accident, he didn't much want to revisit it in his first meeting with Bay Area media.
"My faith is everything, and when you’ve been through the things that I’ve been through, like I got hit by a car when I was 9, you reflect back on those things and you’re like, ‘I got through that,’ so I mean I can get through anything," Colbert said. "There’s a lot online about [the accident]."
After getting back to football, he became a star on the field and on the track, but in talent-rich Texas, it was hard for him to gain traction. Finally, as a high school senior, Colbert's speed -- he won the state title in the 400-meter run as a junior -- and production as a safety and special-teamer caught the eye of the major in-state universities. He chose Texas after an initial verbal commitment to Baylor.
For the Longhorns, Colbert played in all 26 games during his first two seasons as a safety and special-teamer, but his role dwindled in 2015. Instead of heading for the NFL, Colbert opted to take the graduate transfer route and head to the University of Miami. Injuries limited him to eight games, and he finished with 22 tackles, an interception and three pass breakups while moving to cornerback.
Despite the somewhat limited tape, Colbert began to draw attention from NFL teams. When he ripped off a 40-yard dash that some scouts reportedly timed at 4.25 seconds at Miami's pro day, that research deepened.
A further look revealed Colbert is the cousin of 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, which, if nothing else, should reinforce lightning speed runs in the family. That tie certainly didn't hurt after the Niners and general manager John Lynch made Goodwin one of their first targets in free agency this offseason.
So as the 49ers explored their options with their final pick, No. 229 overall, Colbert's ability to help a secondary in need of bodies and potentially become a key special-teams contributor made him the choice.
"It was awesome, just getting the opportunity to come help out this club, and after going through what I’ve been through throughout my whole collegiate career, it was just a blessing to get that call from John," Colbert said.
In San Francisco, Colbert will join a crowded group of corners and safeties. While the two starting safety spots seem to be spoken for, there's room for more depth, and the same is true at cornerback, where only Rashard Robinson appears to have a clearly defined role. Colbert's experience playing as a single-high safety could make him a logical backup to Jimmie Ward, though Lynch indicated Colbert would probably begin at corner.
"He did a graduate transfer year at Miami and played corner and played it well and fits the profile that we’re looking for there," Lynch said. "But we know he can play safety. We’re going to give him a go at probably corner first. Don’t want to speak for the coaches, but this is what we were thinking when we drafted him and know that he has safety versatility and is, we believe, going to be one heck of a special-teams player as well. We’ve seen it on film. And so, we were kind of crossing our fingers that he stayed up there and he did and we jumped.”
And with that, the next step in Colbert's football journey is underway.