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Journeyman running back stars for 49ers

Josh Dubow
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert celebrates after the NFL NFC Championship football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers won 37-20 to advance to Super Bowl 54 against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
AP | FR155217 AP

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Before taking the field each week, Raheem Mostert seeks out motivation.

There it is in a list of all the times he’s been cut by NFL teams. Philadelphia, Miami and Baltimore all let Mostert go in 2015. Cleveland, the Jets and Chicago all sent him packing the following year before he finally ended up on San Francisco’s practice squad.

That unlikely path that saw Mostert get cut almost as many times as he was handed the ball his first three seasons somehow has led to the Super Bowl after he posted one of the greatest postseason performances ever by a running back.

“The journey’s been crazy,“ Mostert said. “Not everybody can deal with that type of stress and pain and agony that I went through. But like I said, I kept the faith in not only myself but whoever gave me the opportunity.“

The 49ers are the beneficiaries of that as the former skateboarder and surfer has proven to be skilled enough on his own two feet as an NFL running back when he was finally given the chance.

Mostert led the 49ers in rushing this season with 772 yards and provided the signature performance of his career on the big stage of the NFC championship game when he ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns in a 37-20 win over Green Bay on Sunday that sent the Niners to the Super Bowl.

Only Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson has rushed for more yards in a playoff game with 248 for the Rams against Dallas on Jan. 4, 1986.

“He’s been a special teams player for so long because of his speed, I’m just so happy that he’s getting the opportunity to showcase his ability at running back,” tackle Joe Staley said. “The guy works harder than really anybody, and he’s been patient. Never really complained about his role, always just shows up, works hard and this is what happens when you accept your roles on a team, you don’t worry about results, you don’t worry about stats, and then you have a moment like this. He was ready for this the whole season.”

While Mostert has become the featured back, he hasn’t forgotten his special teams roots. He still gets extensive time on coverage units and his speed as a gunner helped cause a muffed punt in a divisional round playoff win over Minnesota.

Special teams mean so much to Mostert that he even named his son, Gunnar, after his role on punt coverage. That’s something he doesn’t want to give up.

“It hasn’t crossed my mind because I’m still that team guy,“ he said. “I love playing special teams. I don’t take it for granted because that’s where I started. That’s where I made my name and made my mark.“

Now Mostert is making an even bigger mark in his new role.