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From the Boilermakers to the Super Bowl: Raheem Mostert’s Journey

Prior to the NFC Championship Game, Raheem Mostert was a relative unknown to the average fan. 220 yards and four touchdowns later, everyone is now aware of the name Raheem Mostert. The 49ers running back may be an overnight sensation, but his journey to this point was anything but overnight.

Mostert’s story starts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida where he grew up and went to high school. Mostert was a consensus three star recruit who drew interest from power five schools like Miami, Wake Forest, and Rutgers, but he eventually committed to Purdue.

At Purdue, Mostert was more known for his special teams prowess than his offensive abilities. He was among the most dangerous returners in the nation in his time at Purdue.

As a Freshman in 2011, Mostert led the nation in yards per kick return and his 33.5 yards per return is still the second best in Big Ten Conference history. Mostert’s career average of 26 yards per return ranks sixth all time in the Big Ten.

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When Mostert joined the Boilermakers, he wasn’t even a running back, and he wouldn’t make the full time switch until his junior season. In Mostert’s first full season at running back, he only had 11 carries, which is less than both his freshman and sophomore seasons when he was still listed as a wide receiver.

In his senior season, Mostert carved a significant role in the offense. He finished second on the team in rushing with 529 yards and three touchdowns on 93 carries. Mostert was a fairly productive running back on few touches in his career at Purdue. All in all, he rushed for 759 yards on 136 carries and 6 touchdowns in his collegiate career.

Mostert would go undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft, and like many undrafted free agents Mostert bounced around many teams before finding his home. The UDFA got his start with the Philadelphia Eagles, but was cut shortly before the regular season and found himself on the practice squad.

Mostert was on the Eagles practice squad for eight days before the Miami Dolphins signed him to their roster. It was with the Dolphins where Mostert made his NFL debut.

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In week two against the Jacksonville Jaguars, number 27 Raheem Mostert returned two kickoffs for 57 yards in an inconspicuous NFL debut. The Dolphins lost the game 23-20, and it was the last time he would touch the field as a member of the team. He was inactive for the next month before eventually being waived from the team.

Mostert would not have to wait for long as the Baltimore Ravens did not hesitate to acquire Mostert off of waivers. Mostert would go on to make six appearances for the Ravens where he was used as a return man before he was waived once again. 

While still in his rookie season, Mostert would get another shot. This time with the Cleveland Browns. Mostert would go on to finish his rookie season with the Browns where he was a very productive returner. Mostert had at least 120 return yards in two of his three games, and in his debut against the Seahawks, he had five returns for 159 yards.

After his rookie season, Mostert went into his first offseason without logging a single carry in the NFL, but was productive enough with the Browns for the franchise to re-sign him.

Mostert would not make an appearance with the Browns in the 2016 season. In fact, after playing in 11 games during his rookie season, Mostert would only play three games in his sophomore campaign.

Two of those appearances came in weeks three and four with the Bears, who only signed him after he was released from the Jets practice squad. Mostert was released from the Jets practice squad eight days after being cut by the Browns. 

Mostert was only used as a special teamer in his two-game stint with the Bears, and he was eventually demoted to the practice squad before being released two days before Thanksgiving.

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Greener pastures were ahead for the running back, though. Four days after he was released from the Bears, the San Francisco 49ers added him to their practice squad.

On December 31, 2016, he was activated from the 49ers practice squad and would make his debut the very next day. In a loss to division rivals the Seattle Seahawks, Mostert would return two kicks for 35 yards and receive his first NFL carry, which was a run for six yards.

Mostert has not left the 49ers since that carry, but the team has shown plenty of patience in keeping him around. In the 2017 season, Mostert would only have six rushes for 30 yards and was primarily used on special teams. The third year back only played in 11 games before being placed on injured reserve.

In the following season, Mostert would only play in nine games in what seemed to be a breakout campaign. After only having six carries in the first five games, he saw his role increase in week six. Mostert had 12 carries for 87 yards in a break out game against the Green Bay Packers in a 33-30 loss.

In his last four games, Mostert had 28 carries for 250 yards with a touchdown. Mostert scored his first career touchdown in a Thursday night game against the Oakland Raiders, but in the same game, he suffered a fractured forearm that ended a promising season.

By the time the 2019 season came around, Mostert was an established part of the team and a firm part of the running back by committee that head coach Kyle Shanahan deployed. Mostert had a productive 2019 campaign and by the end of the season, some thought he emerged as the lead back.

The young journeyman was tied for the team lead in carries with 137, but led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns with 772 yards and eight touchdowns respectively. He was also the only running back healthy for all 16 games.

In his playoff debut, Mostert played second fiddle to Tevin Coleman. Mostert would have a respectable 12 carries for 58 yards, but Tevin Coleman had the hot hand on this day going off for 105 yards and two touchdowns, while carrying the ball 22 times.

The following week is where Mostert would be the hero. In the NFC Championship Game, Mostert had the game of his life running for four touchdowns and over 200 yards defeating the same team that spoiled his breakout performance two years earlier in the Green Bay Packers.

Mostert’s Cinderella story may not be finished yet as the 49ers go to his home state of Florida to face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, and with Tevin Coleman leaving the NFC Championship Game early due to injury, the 49ers may need Mostert, the former undrafted free agent who was cut by six teams, to carry them to a championship.

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