ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As Noah Fant spent his final season in Iowa City, he wasn't surprised to see a former Hawkeye teammate find success in the NFL.
George Kittle, in his second season with the 49ers, caught 88 passes for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns as he set the NFL's all-time season receiving record for a tight end.
Fant and Kittle spent a season together at Iowa, when Fant was a freshman and Kittle was a senior. This weekend, the two will be back on the same field as the Broncos host the 49ers for joint practices.
"He took advantage of all the opportunities that he had," Fant said. "It was definitely great to see, but watching through all last season, I wasn't really surprised at what he was doing, just because I know the caliber of player that he was and I know what he can do on and off the field. I wouldn't say I was so much expecting it, but I knew it was just a matter of time before he exploded in their offense."
And while Kittle is the proven NFL entity, Fant could find himself with an opportunity to prove his own worth. Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello is in the midst of implementing a similar system to the one Kyle Shanahan runs in San Francisco — and it's an offensive scheme that seems conducive to success for tight ends.
Kittle has said as much to Fant, who the Broncos selected with the 20th pick of April's NFL Draft.
"He told me that he thinks that it's a perfect fit for me," Fant said. "As I've said before, it's a great offense for me to be in, a great offense for a tight end to be in especially with how Coach Scangarello likes to get [the ball] to the tight end and things like that. I couldn't have asked for a better fit, and you don't get to choose where you go in the draft but it ended up working out perfectly for me."
Fant has plenty to prove before he can be considered one of Iowa's next great NFL tight ends, but there are signs that suggest Fant could get there — especially in red-zone situations. While at Iowa, he recorded the most touchdowns (19) by any tight end in school history.
As he attempts to leave a mark in his first season, it sounds like Fant should have Kittle in his corner. The Broncos rookie said he still talks with Kittle "pretty frequently," and he's looking forward to catching up in person.
"I'm sure he'll be joking around with me quite a bit," Fant said. "It will be good seeing him and seeing him out on the field and being on the field together again."