SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nate Davis knows he’s already shown the doubters just by winning a roster spot with the San Francisco 49ers.

Davis is unfazed by a learning disability that makes it difficult for him to grasp the playbook and transfer that information onto the field.

He carries himself with a confidence and poise in the huddle that has earned the talented rookie a job as the 49ers’ No. 3 quarterback – not to mention the respect of his new teammates and coaches. And that’s sure saying something for the former Ball State standout, who fell to the fifth round in April’s draft largely because of his challenges.

His selection spot: 171st overall.

“I know that every team was a little hesitant taking me because of my learning disability,” Davis said Wednesday before hitting the practice field in advance of Friday’s exhibition finale at San Diego. “You know what, I came off and I was honest during the combine. I came out and the first thing I told them was, ‘Listen, I have a learning disability.’ I wasn’t going to hide nothing. I wanted them to know, and that I can overcome it.”

He’s not one to be overwhelmed by the NFL workload either.

Davis’ heads-up play behind center helped the 49ers to comeback victories in each of their last two preseason games, and on Tuesday the team cut veteran Damon Huard and kept Davis.

Davis does fine with film work and understanding the X’s and O’s, but has trouble when it comes to reading and writing because he might transpose letters and words here and there. It’s a disability similar to dyslexia, so the coaches must exhibit extra patience with Davis to teach him the offense in the most basic of ways.

“It was hard. I’m a very visual learner, so I’ve got to see it, got to do it,” Davis said. “I’ve been working hard. Coach (Mike) Johnson and coach (Jimmy) Raye and coach Mike (Singletary), they’ve been giving me techniques that have been helping me learn the offense.”

Davis also has made it this far doing things his way. He wears gloves on both hands and doesn’t always grip the ball on the laces. When he was drafted, Davis said there was little difference in his play and that of first-round QBs Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez.

“Everybody thinks they should go higher,” Davis said. “You just use that as a motivation. That’s why you keep on working hard and show the other teams that you should have picked me.”

The 6-foot-1, 226-pound Davis became the first player in Ball State history with consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons and was named Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year as a junior and senior – in a league that counts quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Ben Roethlisberger among its other former stars.

Davis went 22-12 as a starter, throwing for a school-record 9,233 yards and 74 touchdowns.

While Davis might not be active for San Francisco’s season opener Sept. 13 at Arizona or other game days, he’s secured his spot on the 53-man roster.

He figured it out for himself Tuesday when he saw Huard removing some items from his locker before a team meeting. Huard didn’t attend the meeting and was long gone afterward.

“That’s how I found out,” said Davis, who plans to call Huard soon to thank him for his guidance.

It just so happened former 49er great Jerry Rice was around team headquarters to offer his congratulations.

“Jerry’s a great guy,” Davis said. “I met him before I became a 49er. I was in Tampa, Fla., working out for the combine and I got to have dinner with him twice. … It was a great deal. I wanted to get a picture with him, but like people say, once you’re a professional you don’t want to ask another professional to have his picture.”

Davis is prepared for a limited role at first while he gets his feet wet and accustomed to the ways of the NFL.

He spent plenty of time observing and learning from Huard, starter Shaun Hill and Alex Smith during training camp. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t pictured himself as San Francisco’s starter of the future.

“That’s a dream,” Davis said. “My goal is I just want to learn the offense before my rookie season’s over. I just have to put the extra hours in. That’s one thing you do. You put the extra work in and it’s going to pay off sooner or later.”

So far, the 49ers have been careful not to overload Davis when he gets in the game and opted to avoid some of the more complicated sets in the playbook.

“The fact that he can take the ball in the design of what he calls and find a guy who is open and completes it has been very, very, very refreshing,” said Raye, the Niners’ seventh offensive coordinator in as many years. “I think as he goes forward, he’ll be able to handle more because he hasn’t seen as much pressure and blitzing from the other team. As he can handle more, I think his development will be good. …

“What has been really important and delightful is that he just goes and plays.”


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