SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Trent Brown accepted the compliment by way of his coaches: The Atlanta Falcons didn't even recognize him on tape last month.
That's how far the rookie offensive lineman has come to improve himself physically in his first season with San Francisco.
A nice confidence boost, indeed.
''I remember having the coaches tell me when we played the Falcons, I was out doing pregame warmups and some of the coaches from the Falcons didn't even recognize me,'' Brown recalled recently. ''I guess my body has changed that much. I was just smiling.''
Offensive line coach Chris Foerster passed that along.
''Very happy that they would say that about him,'' Foerster said. ''That's why I went and told him. I wanted him to know that they said, `Well, who's that guy?' I said, `It's Trent Brown,' and they said, `No way.' The way he was moving and the things he was doing out there, they all saw him in college. It's been great for him.''
Brown is a far different player and athlete than he was earlier this year.
Drafted in the seventh round out of Florida, the 6-foot-8 Brown has made drastic strides physically since Day 1 in Santa Clara - dropping from 355 pounds to 346, building muscle.
''The biggest thing was maintaining it,'' he said. ''I'm a lot stronger.''
Brown earned his first career start in Sunday's 32-17 loss at Detroit, playing right tackle in his fourth NFL game.
''Big Trent stepping up,'' is how quarterback Blaine Gabbert put it Wednesday.
Brown will likely be out there again when the 49ers (4-11) host St. Louis (7-8) in Sunday's season finale at Levi's Stadium looking to go into the offseason on a positive note while missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
Brown wants to be part of a young core of players building something special with this franchise.
''He's just soaking it all in,'' left guard Andrew Tiller said. ''He's just learning how to be a pro. He's a good dude.''
Changing his health and fitness patterns over an extended stretch will be important for the 49ers to see from Brown going forward into the offseason program.
He has appreciated O-line veterans such as Alex Boone and Joe Staley regularly checking up on him.
''They've all been pretty helpful,'' Brown said. ''Sometimes they see me, I may not look down but they feel like I am because they've all gone through their rookie season already, so there's real motivation to come talk to me. Especially Staley, he talks to me all the time. I'm pretty happy. Of course there are some things that have been pointed out to me that I can get better this offseason and I will get better on those. ''
For Brown, the adjustment to the fast pace of the NFL is beginning to become more manageable.
''He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's come in, he's worked real hard,'' Foerster said.
The 49ers would like Brown to continue building strength before his second year, and the offensive lineman still strives to get in better shape and improve his footwork.
Changing his eating habits was among the most difficult challenges as a rookie.
''It was definitely having to dedicate myself to a regular daily diet, no cheat days really,'' he said. ''Sometimes I reward myself with a cheat day every now and then. Not very often, like twice a month.''
NOTES: RB Shaun Draughn was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury after he sat out Sunday at Detroit. TE Je'Ron Hamm was claimed off waivers from Washington. ... Staley was working back from an illness, coach Jim Tomsula said.
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