NFL Rookie Q&A: 49ers WR Ricky Pearsall Is Eager to Add to San Francisco's Firepower

After reuniting with his former Arizona State teammate Brandon Aiyuk, the first-round pick is looking to make an immediate impact with the NFC champions’ star-studded offense.
San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Ricky Pearsall.
San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Ricky Pearsall. / Robert Kupbens-USA TODAY Sports
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Ricky Pearsall wondered what life would have been like had he never walked away from the batter’s box in the middle of a tee ball game to go run around the playground.

“My dad was so mad,” Pearsall told Sports Illustrated. “I just put the bat down and ran to that park and started playing over there. Baseball was never for me.”

Pearsall reminisced about baseball because he’s been playing the video game MLB The Show when he’s not training on the football field. The rookie wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers probably won’t ever know how it would have gone for him in baseball, but maybe he can throw out the first pitch at a San Francisco Giants game, something his new teammate quarterback Brock Purdy recently did.

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“My [pitch] might not look as good as Brock’s,” says Pearsall, the 2024 first-round pick.

Pearsall sat down with SI last week during the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles to discuss his path, from going to Arizona State to Florida to the 49ers. Many were surprised to see San Francisco use its first pick on another skill player, but Pearsall received a ringing endorsement on draft night from 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who also played at Arizona State.

Here’s how Pearsall plans on adding more firepower to the 49ers’ stacked offense. 

Sports Illustrated: Have you gotten a chance to explore L.A. or [have you] mostly been in the hotel signing all your rookie cards?

Ricky Pearsall: I’ve been mostly in the hotel signing my life away. I’ve been doing mad signatures. I just knocked out 4,000 in a row. I’m talking about hand cramping, form burning. I thought I just got off the jugs machine.  

SI: Seeing your pictures on NFL rookie cards, is that a little surreal?

RP: Yeah, there are kids out there who want your card and your signature. It’s kind of crazy because I was that kid at one point. I wanted different athlete’s signatures, so to be able to achieve my goals and be that person, it’s kind of surreal that I got to this position, this opportunity to be able to do that. It’s something that I could look at and be thankful for the opportunities and the people who made it possible.  

SI: Maybe that rookie card could be valuable in a few years, right?

RP: Exactly. We’re going to make it valuable. We gotta do that with the play on the field when it comes to business time. 

SI: Are you close with anybody here at the Rookie Premiere? I’m sure you know many of the guys here, like your Arizona State teammate Jayden Daniels.

RP: Yeah, just going through the process, meeting everybody through the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine and just knowing the guys throughout the football season, being able to have personal conversations with them. But I know Jayden Daniels very well. That’s my guy. When I see him around, we’re always chopping it up because we’re really good friends. 

SI: I’m assuming you guys have reflected on how far you guys have come since your ASU days?

RP: Yeah, it’s definitely surreal, especially because he’s the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft. But it’s not a surprise, just seeing how good he was at a young age and how mature he was. But, obviously, he did a lot of growing and perfecting his craft the last two years [at LSU], as well as myself [at Florida]. It’s cool to go separate ways and see each other’s work from afar and see it pay off on the game field. Seeing him go and have a Heisman year, it’s kind of crazy. Like, FaceTiming him and him showing me the trophy in his house is just wild. 

Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall jumps up to make a one-handed catch during a game.
Pearsall transferred to Florida after three seasons at Arizona State. / Matt Pendleton / USA TODAY NETWORK

SI: How about your journey from going to Arizona State to Florida? I saw you considered entering the NFL draft last year and decided to wait to improve in a few areas. How was that wait for you and to see it pay off after being picked in the first round with the 49ers?

RP: I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve always been the type of person to work really hard. That’s just how I was raised. Both of my parents are extremely hard workers and that’s just my upbringing. Just put in the work, you’re going to be a product of your work at the end of the day. … I’m just an ambitious person and I wanted to continue to improve.

SI: Were you surprised that the 49ers chose you? Did they show a lot of interest in the draft process?

RP: I remember my agent telling me that you never know in the draft. Any team could really come pick you up depending on the certain situations of how the draft goes and how you fit in with the system and the program. Now that I got picked by the Niners, I feel like I’m a perfect fit in that organization, especially being over there for the last week and a half. Just seeing how they run certain things, it’s like, yeah, that’s a program I definitely see myself in and see myself with all those coaches. We just think alike. 

But before leading up, I only met with them at the Senior Bowl for 10 minutes and some scouts, but there’s a lot of familiarity with people there and people that I came across in my path. I bet they knew a lot about me, through conversations with that. Obviously, my former [Arizona State] teammate Brandon Aiyuk was over there. They were aware of me, but I really didn’t meet with them. I worked so hard to be prepped in the interview portion and really understand the game and I didn’t even get an opportunity to prove that to them. But I’m where I’m supposed to be. 

SI: Do you have a good relationship with Brandon Aiyuk?

RP: Yeah, we’ve kept in contact. I was always rooting for him. He’s a really good dude. He’s very talented from what everybody sees and he’s still a little underrated, in my opinion, when it comes to the best receivers in the league. I think he’s definitely up there, especially because you gotta be a great route runner. I think he’s one of the best at that. I’m excited to be teammates with him once again. 

Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall catches a pass during a drill at the 2024 NFL scouting combine.
Pearsall had a breakout season with the Gators in 2023, making 65 catches for 965 yards and four touchdowns. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

SI: How do you see yourself fitting in with such a loaded group of skill players in San Francisco?

RP: It’s going to create that competition for me to go out there and compete each and every day. But also at the same time just learn from them. Those guys are doing it at a high level and they’re veterans. I’m just going to soak up as much information as I can to benefit my own game. I’m humble enough to understand that. … At the end of the day, I’m adding to that firepower of the 49er offense. 

SI: Many were surprised that the 49ers drafted you because they have many talented wide receivers, with Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings. How was it seeing the draft reactions? And then you had Aiyuk giving you an endorsement on social media. 

RP: That definitely made me feel good because there were a lot of people questioning the pick, but that’s O.K. That’s some noise I gotta block out because at the end of the day, I couldn’t care less of what anybody thinks of me—and that’s my personality and that’s how I walk around. You either like me or you don’t, but I’m going to be myself no matter what. 

I really don’t pay attention to that stuff, but to see Brandon Aiyuk say something encouraging to me, who’s a teammate of mine, a friend of mine, and he’s having success at a high level, it’s definitely encouraging for me to see that.

Gilberto Manzano