SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) — When talk turns to endorsement opportunities for a National Football League running backs, the options generally range from food pitches like Campbell Soup to some brand of athletic shoe and maybe a sleek automobile.
But Billabong surfboards? Meet San Francisco’s self proclaimed beach bum, Raheem Mostert, who says surfing is his go-to activity to get away from the rigors of football.
“I like going surfing. Just going out there, even on the beach just listening to the waves crash and stuff like that,” said Mostert. “That really helps my mind go at ease, just get relaxed and have fun.”
“If I just saw him on the football field I would be surprised because I just don’t think of many running backs being big surfers,” said 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. “I’m with him every day and I talk to him so it doesn’t surprise me at all, the way he talks and just hanging out with him. He’s from Florida which surprises me because usually the surfers are from California. I know there are some waves down there too. I think it’s been cool. He got a Billabong sponsorship a couple months ago.”
The former Purdue star grew up surfing in Smyrna Beach, Florida — well known for its shark attacks. But when it has came to navigating the treacherous waters of the NFL, Mostert found it a little more difficult to maneuver.
He was an NFL vagabond, to put it kindly, bouncing between four teams — the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins — in four years.
His blinding speed made him valuable on kick coverage, but getting a shot at being running back proved as elusive as any big wave. He never had an official carry for any of those teams.
He joined the 49ers in 2016, but saw action in just one game, carrying the ball one time for 1 yard and returned two kicks for 35 yards. It really wasn’t until the 49ers suffered injuries to running backs Matt Brieda and Tevin Coleman midway through the 2019 season that Mostert finally got his break.
And on a muddy, rainy day against the NFL’s other top team — the Baltimore Ravens — Mostert emerged as a breakaway threat. He gained 146 yards on 19 carries for a gaudy 7.7 yards per carry average and scored on a 40-yard run in the 49ers 20-17 final seconds defeat.
“He’s really taken advantage of his opportunities,” said San Francisco veteran offensive tackle Joe Staley. “I think what is most exciting about his journey is the actual journey to where he is right now. It’s that work ethic that he’s displayed. He’s never complained about his role when he was a core special teams guy. He was going to be the best special teams guy we had on this team.”
“When he was doing look squad (scout team) running back for us, he was going to give us the best look squad we had. Then when his opportunity came up to get a lot of substantial carries for us, he was going to do the best job he could. It was always doing what he could do to help the team. It’s a great message for a lot of young guys. Not complaining about what your role is currently, but just trying to be the best player you can be for the football team.”
While his intensity on the field has earned his teammates respect, there still in that chill surfer demeanor in the locker room.
“He’s one of those guys, a chill guy, gets along with everyone,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “I can definitely see the surfer, skateboard mentality. He’s an awesome guy to be around. A great guy in the lockerroom.”
Over the last six games, Mostert has found the end zone seven times. With each score, he celebrates with an unique touchdown dance. He jumps onto the ground, mimics paddling out to catch a big wave and leaps to his feet as if he were riding a surfboard.
“He’s enjoying it and it’s my favorite (touchdown) dance he does too,” Shanahan said.
And when the NFL players were given the opportunity to support a favorite cause with specially designed shoes — Mostert’s were of a giant shark and pitch to support ocean conservancy.
“I play to raise the awareness to protect our ocean,” he said.
As for a future goal on the waves, Mostert said he would love to catch a ride at Mavericks — Northern California’s legendary and deadly big wave surf break.
“I follow Mavericks,” he told KPIX 5. “I really want to go out there one time and try it — that’s some really good surfing out there.”