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Minnesotan Trey Lance returns home to practice against Vikings as 49ers QB

The kid from Marshall, Minn., is the unquestioned starter for the San Francisco 49ers heading into this season.

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) during a joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. Lance, a Marshall, Minnesota, native, was a college star at North Dakota State.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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EAGAN, Minn. -- In between the cheers from fans begging Justin Jefferson to hit “The Griddy” after big plays, and the music blaring over the loudspeakers, there was an audible roar from the stands pretty much anytime Trey Lance did anything on the practice field.

It’s no secret that Minnesotans love Minnesotans, so while Lance is the franchise quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, it doesn’t take precedence over the fact that he originally hails from Marshall, Minn.

That was obvious as many people showed up to TCO Performance Center in Eagan on Wednesday morning with the sole purpose of catching a glimpse of the 22-year-old former North Dakota State star in action.

What they saw was a mixed bag from Lance, including a picturesque 65-yard touchdown pass to receiver Danny Gray, as well as a number of misfires. That is probably to be expected from a player stepping into his first season as the unquestioned starter.

“There were some ups and downs,” Lance said after the joint practice between the Minnesota Vikings and 49ers. “Just good to go against another defense.”

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) during a joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

Asked about the fanfare surrounding his every move, Lance tried to downplay it as best he could.

“It’s work at this point,” he said. “These practices should be awesome for us.”

Still, he couldn’t help but smile when talking about his rise up the ranks. This was always his dream as a kid growing up a few hours from the Twin Cities.

“Man, it happened fast,” Lance said. “I’m excited to be here.”

How could he not be? Not many people imagined this was possible back when Lance was a lightly recruited kid from a town of about 14,000 people. He dominated at Marshall High School, then committed to North Dakota State largely because no FBS schools wanted him. Though the Gophers showed some interest, they didn’t see him as a quarterback.

That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

After lighting it up at North Dakota State, winning a national championship in the process, Lance ultimately went No. 3 overall to the 49ers in the 2021 NFL Draft. He played very sparingly last season, learning under veteran Jimmy Garoppolo before taking the reins this season.

“He’s done a good job,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We’re in the middle of training camp, so some good, some bad. It’s getting better throughout the whole process.”

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) greets 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) during a joint practice with the Minnesota Vikings at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

It’s been a slow build for Lance to get to this point.

Though many expected him to be the unquestioned starter as soon as he joined the 49ers, he needed to learn a lot last season. Some of the things that worked for him at North Dakota State, Lance quickly learned, were not going to work in the NFL.

Not only has he gotten much more consistent with the little things that come with playing quarterback in the pros, he’s gotten more confident as the man in charge of the offense.

“It’s slowed down a lot,” Lance said. “I feel like I’m in a much better spot.”

His teammates agree with that assessment, including 49ers tight end George Kittle, who still remembers his first time Lance threw him the ball last season.

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“I’m pretty sure it was like a 5-yard route and he threw it at my head and tried to take my helmet off,” Kittle said with a laugh. “Now he’s got some nice touch to it.”

All jokes aside, Kittle said he’s been impressed with Lance’s growth as a player.

“I think Trey has consistently gotten better and better every single day,” Kittle said. “Those small consistent steps in the same direction lead to great results. I’m pretty confident in his ability.”

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Unfortunately for anyone hoping to watch Lance in a game this weekend, it doesn’t sound like he’s going to play in the preseason game on Saturday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. Though that could change in the coming days, it doesn’t sound like Shanahan feels any sort of pressure to play the hometown kid.

“No,” Shanahan said. “Not at all.”

Which is fine with Lance. He’s focused on being the best quarterback he can be.

“Just coming out here every day and trying to get better,” Lance said. “Just taking it one step at a time.”

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

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