SANTA CLARA, Calif. » In a year of sweeping changes for the San Francisco 49ers, few could have envisioned journeyman running back Shaun Draughn leading the way in the ground game down the stretch this season.
Draughn can barely believe it.
Now with his eighth organization in five years, he is suddenly a featured back, called upon to fill a void in San Francisco’s injury-riddled backfield.
Starter Carlos Hyde missed his fourth straight game last week against first-place Arizona with a stress fracture in his left foot, while Reggie Bush was already lost for the season after he slipped on the concrete at St. Louis on Nov. 1 and required knee surgery.
San Francisco signed Draughn the next day, Nov. 2, and he has now played in games for six teams since joining Washington as an undrafted free agent in late July 2011, a few days after the lockout lifted.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity that I’m getting,” Draughn said.
He played in five games for Cleveland this year before being let go Oct. 20. In 2014, he moved around even more: Two games with Chicago, four for San Diego and four with the Browns.
Draughn has also been with Kansas City, Baltimore and Indianapolis.
After all of those switches, he’s a featured back at last.
“I’m just humbled,” Draughn said. “I just want to go out there and show my teammates, show the fans and show the organization that I’m here to work and do whatever it takes to win. I’m here for the guys and I’m going to give it my all when I go out there. Regardless of whether I’m starting or not, that’s just the type of player I am.”
Draughn will face two of his former organizations in the next two weeks, this Sunday at Chicago and the following week in Cleveland.
Draughn, who turns 28 on Monday, has 43 carries for 146 yards and 259 total yards in three games since San Francisco acquired him.
He had 15 carries for 51 yards in Sunday’s 19-13 loss to Arizona. Draughn has been surprised at all the chances.
“We’re fortunate to have him,” quarterback Blaine Gabbert said today. “For him to step in and start pretty much from Day 1 going into a game, having only been here for four weeks and starting the last three weeks … it’s been a tremendous asset to this offense and this team.”
Draughn, 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, has gone through so many franchises he wasn’t sure when his chance would come.
He rushed for 2,070 yards and 10 touchdowns to go with 50 catches for 268 yards and a TD in 44 games during his college career for North Carolina.
“That’s the thing that I feel like I’ve been missing,” Draughn said. “Other teams didn’t give me this shot, but the 49ers did and I was definitely going to take it and run like a wild man when I got the chance. It’s a blessing to be in this position.”
Draughn has been reliable without the ball, too.
Right guard Andrew Tiller, who has started the past two games, credits Draughn for his contributions picking up blitzes.
“He just sticks his face up in there,” Tiller said. “He doesn’t care who is blitzing. He’s going to put his hat in there and pick up that block. Shaun runs hard. I like Shaun back there. He’s a good back. I feel like he’s getting into a groove. He’s got our trust up front.”
For Draughn, this December stretch is important to show what he can do to land a job next season — he hopes to stick right here where he already feels at home.
“It makes it easy when you have the type of guys that we have in this locker room. It’s about football, but we have guys that are more like brothers in the locker room,” he said. “I would love to be here. It’s a great place, like I said. It’s a group of guys that I could definitely see myself being around for years to come.”
NOTES: LB Ahmad Brooks said he is symptom-free from a concussion that kept him out of last week’s loss to Arizona. He took a hit in the fourth quarter at Seattle on Nov. 22 and immediately had a headache that lasted three days.
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