49ers’ Ji’Ayir Brown describes connection with DC Steve Wilks as ‘father-son’ bond

May 15, 2023, 11:35 AM | Updated: 11:37 am

Penn State Nittany Lions safety Ji'Ayir Brown (16) defends during the Rose Bowl game between the Pe...

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Penn State Nittany Lions safety Ji'Ayir Brown (16) defends during the Rose Bowl game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Utah Utes on January 2, 2023 at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When new 49ers safety Ji’Ayir Brown met with San Francisco in the pre-draft process, it was an instant connection.

Brown met with the Bay Area media for the first time last week, elated to finally be in the building for rookie minicamp. And while he had a connection with the entire coaching staff and front office, his conversations with new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks stuck with him the most leading up to the draft.

“We had almost a father-son talk when I was on my top 30 visit,” Brown said about Wilks Friday. “He’s a great guy, and he has a vision for this team that I follow. He gave me some words of advice that I will forever carry with me.”

Brown wouldn’t disclose what that advice was from his new coach, but he reiterated his love for the team that drafted him. After slipping out of the second round, he was hopeful that his No.1 choice would make a play for him by the end of the night.

“When I came here on my top 30 visit, I was so amazed at how well we connected,” Brown stated. “Me and Coach Wilks, [general manager] John Lynch, it’s been a bond from the jump. I was like, ‘If I get to San Fran, man. I love San Fran.’ I knew as soon as I slipped to the third round, the kind of connection we had, they got to come get me.”

That excitement was universal, as Wilks was seen jumping up & down when the Red & Gold made the call to trade up for him in the third round.

Spending some time with him on and off the football field, the top 30 visits consisted of other group activities, like Top Golf and dinner, between the two men. Wanting to see how Ji’Ayir interacts in social settings, the 49ers’ coach left impressed with the player’s character, growing on him with each passing moment together.

“The conversation that we were having, his dedication to the game. He’s mature, he sees it with a different lens, and I said, ‘This guy right here can be the future for us.’ So I was excited about it and I’m glad we got him,” Wilks said about Brown.

When relayed those comments by his new coach, Brown could do nothing but shine his usual beaming smile to the media. A connection that felt right from the beginning, has now come to fruition for both sides.

“You just gave me chills a little bit,” Ji’Ayir Brown said. “It’s a blessing. I got to definitely go out there and put the work in and make it happen, but it’s a blessing to have a coach that believes in you that much.”


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