Jim Harbaugh 49ers standing straightSan Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh went on KNBR to talk with Tom Tolbert and Eric Byrnes about the NFL Draft this afternoon. When Byrnes asked him how much say he has on who the team drafts, Harbaugh said the standard stuff about it being a team effort. Then he asked if the hosts wanted to hear a story that no one else knew about the draft.

Harbaugh brought up fourth round draft pick Quinton Patton, a wide receiver who was projected to go in the second or third round after two very productive seasons at Louisiana Tech. Soon after the draft, the 49ers received a call from Patton, who said he was in a rental car and was on his way to the facility. The 49ers were extremely confused, so they tried to clarify exactly what Patton meant. He explained that he had purchased a plane ticket from Nashville and flown to the Bay Area, and he was 20 minutes away.

One problem: rookies aren’t allowed to take part in any football activities at a team facility until rookie minicamp starts on May 10. So Harbaugh said the 49ers had to tell Patton to turn around and fly back to Nashville.

“We should’ve done a better job communicating to the rookies that we’re going to buy their plane tickets and we’ll fly them out here a week from Thursday,” said Harbaugh, who talked about calling Patton’s agency to see if he was aware that his client flew across the country.

QP“Quinton is here,” Harbaugh remembered someone from the 49ers telling Patton’s representative (probably Jamie Fritz). “Did you not tell him he’s not supposed to be here til next Thursday?”

Harbaugh recalled Patton’s agent saying, “You know, Quinton said he was so excited to get started he was just going to get a plane ticket and fly himself out there. But I thought he was just kidding.”

Patton may be out a few hundred bucks for his overzealousness, but that could probably be considered a great investment (and let’s be honest, Patton can probably deduct the cost as a business expense if he has a good accountant). With Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams recovering from injuries and A.J. Jenkins still yet to prove he’s a viable NFL receiver, there’s an opportunity for Patton — who caught 21 passes for 233 yards and 4 TD against Texas A&M last season — to become the team’s No. 3 receiver. He’s off to a great start.

“He is already my favorite guy,” Harbaugh said. “Isn’t that awesome?”

Full transcript of that portion of the interview (full interview can be heard here)

Harbaugh: After I tell you this story you’re going to just wish you could just go give him a big hug right now. As soon as he comes in here for minicamp that’s what I’m going to go do. I’m going to walk up to him and give him a big hug.

He calls us two days ago, and he said he’s here. He’s on his way, just landed at the airport, he’s in his rental car, he’s coming over to the facility and he can’t wait to get started. Which we had to go, “You’re where? What airport did you fly into? You’re in a rental car driving here?”

“Yeah, coach. I’m 20 minutes away.”

And we go, “You can’t come, you can’t be here. You can’t come here.” He’s not allowed to be at our facility. If he comes to our facility two days ago than he can’t come to our rookie minicamp next weekend.

So we called the League and explained what had happened, and nobody had told Quinton that he wasn’t supposed to be here. He just got on a plane…

Byrnes: On his own…

Harbaugh: On his own…

Byrnes: Bought his own ticket…

Harbaugh: Bought his own ticket, flew from Nashville to San Francisco Airport, rented a car and couldn’t wait to get started. That’s how gung ho he was.

The rule is that players can’t come to the city, to the facility. They can’t start working on football until the rookie minicamp. Now they can come in like Eric Reid did, they can come in the day they were drafted. But outside of that 24 hour period they’re not allowed to be at your facility working on football.

So the amazing story is we had to (tell him) on the phone, “Stop, Quinton. You’ve got to go back to the airport and fly back to Nashville. You can’t come here until the rookie minicamp.”

We didn’t do a very good job of communicating that to Quinton before he got on the airplane. But the fact that he would buy his own ticket and fly out here, to me just speaks volumes. To be honest with you, he reminds me of me. That’s something I would’ve done.

Byrnes: You’ve got to love his tenacity.

Harbaugh: I love it. I can’t wait. It’s probably the best money he’s ever spent, even though he had to just fly out here and fly back home. It’s the best money, because if he plays for 10 or 15 years in this League, every time somebody talks about Quinton Patton they’re going to recall the story. Yeah, he was so gung ho to get his NFL career started that he flew out to San Francisco on his own dime.

Byrnes: So if you have to cut him that’s going to be a difficult one.

Harbaugh: That’s not going to happen.

(Byrnes brings up a story about Hunter Pence buying his own plane ticket and flying out to San Francisco when he was traded to the Giants by the Phillies.)

Harbaugh: Another part of that story. like I said, we should’ve done a better job of communicating to all the rookies not to fly themselves out here. We’ll fly them out here a week from Thursday. We even called Quinton’s agent and said, “Quinton’s here. Did you not tell him that he wasn’t supposed to be here til Thursday?”

His agent said, “You know, Quinton said he was so excited to get started he was just going to get a plane ticket and fly himself out there. But I thought he was just kidding.”

Isn’t that awesome? That’s just great.

Tolbert: Do you think when you sign him you could throw in a couple free flight vouchers for him?

Harbaugh: He’s already my favorite guy.