When many of the 49ers reported to Santa Clara this week for the start of voluntary team workouts, guard Alex Boone had a new look.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pound former Ohio State standout, who will be entering his fourth NFL season, has gotten even bigger.
The team’s right guard, who had an outstanding season in 2012 as a first-time starter, told 49ers.com this week that he’s gained 10 to 15 pounds of muscle in an off-season push to make himself even better in 2013. As a member of perhaps the 49ers’ strongest offensive asset – a young, physical and skilled offensive line – Boone wants to see continued improvement.
Boone told the team’s website that he concentrated on a lifting program back home in Ohio to add strength that will help him deal with interior defensive linemen, many of whom outweigh him. He also said he adopted a more healthy diet.
“Eating healthy, lifting and training hard,” he said. “It was simple stuff.”
As a onetime undrafted free agent, Boone’s arc of improvement already has been steep. Last season he was switched from offensive tackle to compete for the open spot at right guard and was almost instantly impressive. By the end of the season, his consistently solid performance was one of the reasons the 49ers’ rushing attack ranked No. 4 in the NFL, averaging 161.2 yards per game.
“It’s unbelievable how far Alex has come,” said 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari, just before San Francisco’s appearance in the Super Bowl. “Even last year (2011), he played in some situations, but he didn’t really start. I didn’t believe he was ready. But he made an incredible change in his body, and that only comes from hard work in the gym.
“As a player, Alex brings a real attitude. He’s a tough, tough guy.”
Over the next two weeks, Boone and his teammates will go through strength and conditioning work at team headquarters. Afer that, players and coaches will go through on-field work together.
Boone’s desire to improve was echoed by teammates who showed up for workouts this week, including new cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha – signed as a free agent after a disappointing stint in Philadelphia – and All-Pro inside linebacker Patrick Willis.
“Last year we were close but we didn’t get it done,” Willis told the team’s website. “This year we have to put in that much more effort to bring it (the Super Bowl title) back.”
Boone begins these off-season team workouts as a member of a five-man line that played every game in 2012: tackles Joe Staley and Anthony Davis, center Jonathan Goodwin and guards Boone and Mike Iupati.
As the new kid, Boone showed in 2012 he wasn’t a weak link, but the equal of his peers.
Safety Donte Whitner said before the Super Bowl that Boone’s dedication and hard work had paid off in a big way, especially after personal problems, including trouble with alcohol during his college career, almost derailed his pro career before it started.
Now, Boone hopes another off-season of getting bigger and stronger will make him even better.
“It’s a testament to him to change the problems he had and dedicate himself back to the game of football,” Whitner told an Ohio newspaper in February. “Not only did he make this team, but he’s performing at a Pro Bowl level and was voted as an alternate.”