Quarterback MarQueis Gray of the University of Minnesota, will try to make the 49ers as a tight end and special teams player. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
At his heart, MarQueis Gray says he’s still a quarterback.
But during summer training camp with the 49ers, the rookie from the University of Minnesota will be trying to earn a job as a jack-of-all-trades tight end and halfback.
Gray, who will wear No. 46, the number worn by departed tight end Delanie Walker (now with Tennessee), could fill the similar, multipurpose role that Walker held, lining up in the backfield, as a tight end or split wide as a receiver.
Gray just completed the 49ers’ three-day rookie minicamp where he worked to make the adjustment from college quarterback at Minnesota to tight end/halfback.
“It’s very hard,” Gray said after this first day on the field as a pro. “But you’ve got to stay in the playbook and overcome adversity.”
Gray, 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, made 26 starts at quarterback for the Gophers but also made 26 starts as a wide receiver. He caught 60 passes for 766 yards and six touchdowns.
The most difficult transition for Gray is learning the blocking techniques he’ll need to earn playing time, as well as the complicated Niners playbook.
“Blocking and terminology being up front with the big guys, that’s the biggest part of being a tight end,” Gray told Taylor Price of 49ers.com. He’ll also need to get stronger.
“At this level, you’re playing with the best athletes in the world,” Gray told Price. “You’ve got to have the strength and the confidence to make plays and it starts with the playbook and the weight room.”
When Gray was asked by a friend Sunday on Twitter how rookie minicamp was going, Gray showed his enthusiasm, replying, “Getting better everyday!”
Gray wasn’t taken in April’s NFL draft, but signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent. Making the 49ers’ roster may be difficult, however, with a team coming off a trip to the Super Bowl and a rich haul of draft picks.
With Vernon Davis the No. 1 tight end, the Niners added Vance McDonald of Rice with a second-round pick. McDonald, too, is a player the 49ers like for his versatility. Gray appears in line to compete with Garrett Celek, an undrafted free agent signed last year, for the No. 3 spot on the roster.
Gray could earn a spot if he proves he can be a solid blocker in his new role, and also contribute on special teams.
He’s going to give it his best shot.
“I told the coaching staff the first time I talked to them that I was willing to do whatever, and I’m just going to continue to do that,” Gray told 49ers.com.