UNITED STATES—The San Francisco 49ers made an exciting addition to their secondary earlier this year, agreeing terms with defensive back Myles Hartsfield after the Carolina Panthers made the decision not to tender the player.
Hartsfield joined the Panthers as an undrafted free agent back in 2020. While he didn’t have a nailed-down position to start and trained as both a safety and a running back, he ended up playing 41 games for Carolina, 19 of them starts, and served as the team’s primary nickel defender. The former Ole Miss star registered 118 combined tackles, with five for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, and seven passes defended during his time with the Panthers.
The 25-year-old is quite versatile, as you might have figured out by now, and can help the Niners in several areas on defense. Following his signing, it was reported that he will get looks as a safety and a slot corner. He also has lots of special teams experience from his time in Carolina.
While he may have to fight for a roster spot in preseason, the fact that Hartsfield can play multiple roles, even on offense, will certainly hand him an advantage.
The player recorded significant numbers as a running back in high school as a player for Sayreville in New Jersey. He logged 1,86 yards on 118 carries for 13.4 yards per carry as a junior.
Matt Rhule, the former Panthers head coach, knew what he might be able to get from Hartsfield as a running back and deployed him in the position at one point. He only got two carries for just as many yards, but he must have been a bit rusty.
“I mean, I’m sitting in the same meeting room with Christian McCaffrey. I was like, ‘Is this real?'” he told Carolina’s official website in 2021. “I thought they were blowing smoke at first, but I get to the hotel the night before the game, and I’m looking at the first 15 (play) script, and I’m in there, it’s like, ‘What’s going on? They’re really going to give me the ball.’
“Then, as soon as I got hit, it’s like ‘OK, this is why I play defense.’ But I hadn’t done it in five years, so my two carries for 2 yards were like living the dream.”
The 49ers will probably not need him at RB as they have a few to call upon at the moment, with McCaffrey the main back there now. But, should they ever ask, he will be happy to oblige.
“I’m a guy who, if the coach tells me to be the kicker, I’m going to say alright, and I’m going to do it,” he said during his rookie season.
Hartsfield’s chances of success will be greater in San Francisco as long as he makes the 53-man roster, with the 49ers the second favorites to win the NFC at +350, behind the +275 Philadelphia Eagles.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are a much wider +2200 and, given that NC will soon allow sports betting, sportsbooks are likely to see a lot more folks jump on these odds if the no.1 overall pick, Bryce Young, performs up to the level he’s expected to.
Hartsfield will be focused on his own team, though he will be grateful to the Panthers for taking a chance on him. He might not have had this opportunity otherwise.
It’s been a tough road to the NFL but he remains on track to make a career out of the chances he’s been given.
He was involved in a huge controversy after his junior season, with his school’s campaign canceled because of a hazing incident that saw seven players arrested. No names were released given that they were minors but Hartsfield had his scholarship offer pulled by Penn State after verbally committing to play for the university.
“It was hard for the town at first,” he said in 2015. “There’s a lot of he-said, she-said getting information from the media and half the stuff was crazy. The truth isn’t always the best story, the story that sells newspapers. It’s a lie or an exaggeration. People are going to believe that. ….People won’t believe the truth.”
Hartsfield steered clear of discussing the details or revealing whether he played any role. But he said the incident helped him grow as a person.