Former JSerra football star first in school’s history to be selected in NFL draft

By Dan Arritt     8/8/2018

Dante Pettis didn’t have to wait as long as anticipated for the phone call that would change his life.

The former JSerra football star was relaxing in his San Clemente home on April 27 when an unfamiliar area code lit up the screen on his cell phone.

It was the San Francisco 49ers informing Pettis that they had drafted him in the second round.

Just like that, Pettis became the first JSerra graduate to be selected in the NFL Draft.

“It was incredible,” Pettis told KNBR radio station shortly after his selection. “I thought I was going to go a little bit later, so I wasn’t really expecting that phone call. I saw the area code and everything, and I was like, ‘No way this is happening right now.’ So, I mean, it was insane.”

Pettis had to wait another three months before he could put on his 49ers uniform.

He didn’t sign a contract until July 25, one of the last rookies to sign their deal. He was on the practice field the next day.

Pettis has a familiar name for those who have followed sports in Orange County the past few decades.

His father, Gary Pettis, played center field for the Los Angeles Angels from 1982-87, and is currently in his fourth season as the third base coach for the Houston Astros.

His cousin, Austin Pettis, is an Orange Lutheran graduate who played for the St. Louis Rams from 2011-15.

The family’s talent isn’t limited to sports either. Dante’s brother, Kyler, another JSerra graduate, is an actor who portrays Theo Carver on the NBC soap opera, Days of Our Lives.

Dante was the top receiver at JSerra as a senior in 2013. He finished with 50 catches for 889 yards and 11 touchdowns. He signed with the University of Washington shortly after and left his mark both with the Huskies and the NCAA record book.

He had nine punt returns for touchdowns in his college career to set an NCAA record, and set another mark by returning punts for touchdowns in three straight games last season.

Pettis caught 53 passes for 822 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior at Washington. He had 63 receptions for 761 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior.

“I would say I am a playmaker,” Pettis told KNBR. “I think I have the capability to change the momentum of the game. That’s something I look forward to bringing to the 49ers.”

Many pegged Pettis as a third or fourth-round selection, but the 49ers snatched him with their second pick, 44th overall. Pettis said there’s plenty to like about San Francisco.

“I’m about an hour plane ride from home, so it will be easy for my family to get to the games,” Pettis said. “It’s pretty cool to stay on the West Coast.”

Pettis will also recognize a familiar face during training camp and, hopefully, into the regular season.

Jeremy McNichols, who played his senior season at Santa Margarita in 2013, is competing for a back-up running back spot with the 49ers.

McNichols was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fifth round out of Boise State last year, spent all but two games on the practice squad and then signed with San Francisco in the offseason in hopes of winning a spot in the roster.