Shayne Skov battled a knee injury midway through his college career, a calf injury just before the scouting combine and a hamstring injury prior to his pro day at Stanford. The string of bad breaks - which translated into a sluggish 5.1-second 40-yard dash prior to the draft - helps explain why Skov, who was once viewed as one of the top inside linebackers in the nation, went undrafted last week.
Skov admitted to being surprised by the snub, which has created a sizable chip on his shoulder as he prepares for what promises to be perhaps the 49ers' best offseason position battle.
"When public opinion and people's perceptions are different than your own then obviously you're going to take that a little bit personally," Skov said on Thursday. "But at the end of the day I'm a football player. From here on out, my play and my abilities are going to dictate whether I see the field or not and what my future is as a player."
Skov played for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio for a season at Stanford and is more familiar with the 49ers' defense than any of the team's rookies. The 49ers also will have an opening at inside linebacker while NaVorro Boman recovers from his January ACL tear.
Still, San Francisco is a curious choice for a free-agent linebacker that was heavily courted by a number of teams - including the Raiders -- considering the team used a third-round draft pick on Wisconsin inside linebacker Chris Borland.
General manager Trent Baalke raved about Borland's instincts and tough-guy mentality after the selection on Friday. Borland's achievements include setting a Big 10 record for forced fumbles and winning the conference's Defensive Player of the Year award last season. Veterans Michael Wilhote and Nick Moody, a sixth-round pick a year ago, also will compete at the position.
Skov said he followed the top linebackers in the nation from afar and that the 5-11 Borland always stuck out. "I think it's funny that everyone's always trying to knock Chris' height and everything," Skov said. "But if you watch him play, he plays way bigger than any of his measurables. He's a phenomenal player, and I've always thought that."
Borland, meanwhile, said he's asked Skov questions about what he did at Stanford as the duo goes through "football school" this week with the rest of the 49ers' rookies and newcomers. He said Skov might be a bit ahead right now "but I'm catching up quickly."
Skov said he chose San Francisco because "there was a genuine desire from the coaching staff for me to be here." While the leg injuries slowed him down earlier this year, he insisted he's 100 percent now and would run in the 4.8-second range if he was timed in the 40-yard dash.
"I'm not a speed demon," he said. "But I know I'm fast enough. If you turn on my game tape that's never been a question."
Skov stormed into the national spotlight in the Orange Bowl in 2011, Fangio's and Jim Harbaugh's final game as Cardinal coaches. He had 12 tackles, three sacks and a pass breakup in that contest, establishing himself as one of the top young linebackers in the country.
A severe knee injury the following year, however, wiped away his 2011 season, and he wasn't back up to speed in 2012. Last year, however, he had the best statistical season of his career, including 109 tackles, 13 for loss and five and half sacks. He was particularly good against Oregon's notoriously speedy offense, finishing that game with nine tackles two of them for losses.
"The coaches have a belief in me and my abilities as a player," Skov said. "And I have a belief in me. Obviously, I'm an undrafted free agent, so I have to get to work and prove myself but I think I've got that opportunity here."
-- Matt Barrows