Puyallup’s Joshua Garnett isn’t one for big drama — except for the type of unexpected activity that unfolded Thursday night on the opening day of the NFL draft.
The reigning Outland Trophy winner from Stanford knew if he had a place in the first round, it likely would be late, as is often the case for offensive guards.
With a small gathering at his parents’ house in Puyallup, the 6-foot-5, 321-pounder watched the draft-day coverage on television, seeing each pick go off, one by one.
Then, as he noticed the Kansas City Chiefs were on the clock, a phone call came in from Northern California.
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“I didn’t know anything was brewing,” Garnett said. “I thought it was San Francisco calling about wanting to take me tomorrow.”
He was correct on one account, the 49ers did covet the nation’s highest-graded run blocker in the draft.
But they wanted him sooner — much sooner.
San Francisco traded two extra picks — in the fourth and sixth rounds — to move up from the second round (No. 37) to select Garnett with the 28th overall selection.
“It means a lot to know a team wants to trade some picks to get you, because they believe in you that much,” Garnett said. “It gives me that edge … and now I cannot let them down.”
The Garnett selection was the first real shocker of the night. In many mock drafts, he was projected to go somewhere in the second round.
In fact, on most boards, he wasn’t even the top guard prospect for the draft. Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair was.
But for an NFL team that loves to run the football — the 49ers fit that bill, even under new coach Chip Kelly — it made perfect sense for them not to wait on a smart, tough, punishing blocker such as Garnett, who started most of his 55 career games at Stanford at left guard.
After the selection, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke told Bay Area media that, “in our mind, he was the best run-blocking … lineman in the draft.”
It was Kelly himself who called Garnett right before the 49ers’ second first-round selection to inform him of the team’s plans.
“Was just hoping and praying,” Garnett said.
Garnett is the third Stanford offensive lineman to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft since 2012 and the 22nd first-rounder in school history.
Garnett, a three-time all-state lineman at Puyallup High School, also became the sixth first-round pick from Pierce County, joining Lincoln’s Dave Williams (1967), Mount Tahoma’s Bobby Moore (1972), Wilson’s Marcus Trufant (2003), Lakes’ Reggie Williams (2004) and Wilson’s Desmond Trufant (2013).
He is also the first offensive lineman from South Sound to ever go in the first round.
And he got to share all of it with his parents, Scott (a former NFL defensive lineman who also played for the 49ers) and Shanda; his twin sister, Rachel; and older brother, Desean.
“It means a lot for our one last time to be together like this,” Garnett said.
Garnett heads off to the Bay Area on a noon flight Friday out of Sea-Tac Airport. He and fellow 49ers first-round pick DeForest Buckner, a defensive lineman out of Oregon, will hold their introductory news conference at 5 p.m.