CLEVELAND — Montana. Young. Lance.
And don't forget Kaepernick, because there's a little of that coming San Francisco's way, too.
Former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance was selected third overall in Thursday night's NFL Draft, wiping away tears as he walked the runway to meet league commissioner Roger Goodell on the enormous outdoor stage set up by the Lake Erie shore.
The kid from Marshall, Minn., and NDSU is going to the Bay Area to play for a team that made the Super Bowl two years ago. He is the future of a franchise that has one of the most storied pasts in the NFL.
"Just blessed. Unbelievably blessed to have grown up in Marshall with the people I grew up with and around, the mentors I had," Lance said late Thursday. "Obviously being able to grow up more in the Fargo-Moorhead community at North Dakota State. Just super blessed and thankful for everyone who helped me get here."
Cleveland rocks, it is said.
And it sure did for Lance.
While many draft pundits had the 49ers choosing Alabama's Mac Jones with the third pick after Clemson's Trevor Lawrence went No. 1 to Jacksonville and Brigham Young's Zach Wilson went second to the New York Jets — both expected — San Francisco instead went with a Football Championship Subdivision quarterback who started 17 college games.
Asked what he would tell Niners fans who are nervous that their team selected an FCS quarterback with limited experience, Lance said:
"They are going to get all I got. I am super excited to get there and learn as much as I possibly can. I want to be a great addition to the quarterback room and learn from Jimmy and get to know him," Lance said. "I know this coaching staff is going to push me to my limits and make me uncomfortable every single day. That's something I'm looking forward to."
Jimmy is Jimmy Garoppolo, the team's starter who led the Niners to the Super Bowl two seasons ago but has struggled staying healthy. It's clear now San Francisco doesn't see Garoppolo as a long-term solution.
Lance is hoping he can add to the long quarterback lineage with the 49ers. It's Hall of Fame caliber.
San Francisco was home to Joe Montana, a four-time Super Bowl champion, two-time NFL most valuable player and three-time Super Bowl MVP. He's only one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
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The 49ers followed that with Steve Young, a three-time Super Bowl winner who was also a two-time league MVP and a Super Bowl MVP.
That was decades ago, though.
The 49ers of 2020 went 6-10, a steep fall from grace after a 13-3 season in 2019 when they advanced to the Super Bowl before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan made it known he was looking for an "elite" quarterback in this year's draft. The team also put to rest all the speculation and guessing that it was looking at anybody except Lance. He was their guy all along, they said.
So Shanahan and general manager John Lynch maneuvered to get Lance in a good old-fashioned blockbuster trade.
San Francisco last month dealt with the Miami Dolphins to obtain the third pick it used to draft Lance. The 49ers gave the Dolphins the 12th overall pick, plus first-round selections in 2022 and 2023 and a compensatory third-round choice in 2022.
In other words, the 49ers leveraged their franchise to acquire the draft pick with which they selected Lance. This is something of which Lance is aware.
"Without a doubt. I know the sacrifices they made to get in that position. I know a little bit about coach Shanahan and how he works," Lance said. "He wants to be in control of that situation. Obviously very, very thankful that I was his choice.
It is reminiscent of the maneuvering the Philadelphia Eagles did to get former Bison QB Carson Wentz with the second pick in the 2016 draft.
Lance looked the part. That much we can say definitively.
Can he play the part? That is the $34 million question, which is the contract amount Lance will sign with San Francisco.
Lance walked the red carpet at the NFL Draft on Thursday night wearing a shimmering blue suit, snappy bowtie, and no socks with designer shoes. And the sunglasses.
Who picked out the shoes?
"I did!" Lance said, beaming.
Total Hollywood for the humble young man from Marshall — population 14,000.
Lance and his fellow prospects were bright spots on a dark, gray, windy, wet, cold, miserable night on the shore of Lake Erie.
Oh, and about that Kaepernick reference.
Lance is a socially conscious young man. He marched in Fargo after George Floyd's death. In NDSU's lone fall game at the Fargodome, Lance wore shoes bearing the names of Black people killed by police. He was one of several Bison players who took a knee during the national anthem during that game, sparking a backlash from NDSU fans and donors who didn't like Lance and his teammates turning a football game into a social statement.
Lance will focus on football with Niners. He knows that. But there is another side to him, too, one that is very aware of what is happening in the world.
He also had time to throw some bouquets at NDSU, which has now had three straight starting quarterbacks drafted. Wentz, Easton Stick and now Lance.
A reporter asked what makes NDSU so special.
"I don't want to say culture, because that's pretty cliché," Lance said. "But it's just the people who are there. It really is a special place. If you haven't checked it out, I would definitely recommend it."
The good people of the Bay Area are busy checking it out right now, hoping the school on the prairie can provide them another Montana or Young.