SANTA CLARA -- Carlos Hyde took a rare respite in his first 49ers training camp, signed in as "El Guapo" on Twitter and put his career in succinct perspective.
"And to think that I almost gave up on this dream," Hyde tweeted Saturday night.
Football stopped existing for Hyde 10 years ago. He was hanging with the wrong crowd in his native Cincinnati. He had no idea a decade later he'd be an NFL running back, penciled in as Frank Gore's successor.
"When I tweeted that, I was thinking about how when I lived in Cincinnati, I was at a point in my life I didn't play football anymore," Hyde said Sunday. "I didn't think football was the route, anymore. It was a different situation I was living in."
Guys he knew were getting killed or going to jail. His mother feared the worst, as did he.
"I was done playing football," Hyde recalled. "It wasn't that I wanted to be done. I was heading down the wrong route."
So Hyde went to live with his grandmother, Irma Butler, in Naples, Florida, where a reincarnated football career became a better option than getting incarcerated -- or worse -- in Cincinnati.
"I saw where he had potential and saw he was going down a wrong road," Dermidra Hyde told the Columbus Dispatch in 2012. She said the third of her five children "fell off from being that good kid to hanging around the wrong crowd."
What Hyde found in Florida were guys who had grand dreams: to play college football and make the NFL.
Poor grades, however, kept Hyde from playing at Naples High until his junior and senior years. Ohio State beckoned, but first he had to improve academically. So he took another detour, to Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia in the fall of 2009.
"The closer it came time to go home, it got better," Hyde said of Fork Union. "It was a good experience for me."
After Hyde established himself as an elite running back in four years at Ohio State (37 touchdowns, 6.1 yards per carry), the 49ers selected him in the second round of May's draft. That choice is already paying dividends.
Hyde enters Thursday night's exhibition opener at Baltimore as the No. 2 back behind Gore, a result of training-camp injuries to Kendall Hunter (knee; out for the season) and LaMichael James (elbow; out a month).
"He's getting a lot of reps, so he should be pretty greased up on what to do," running backs coach Tom Rathman said. "It'll be interesting to see what he does in his first game. I know he's a rookie and highly touted coming out, but you've still got to show up and play."
In the running backs' dark room during film sessions, Hyde sits behind Rathman and constantly whispers questions to the two-time Super Bowl-winning fullback.
"There's less and less questions each day," Hyde said. "Today I had just one, about the technique of a route I'm running."
Many past questions have been about Gore, as Hyde studies how to emulate the 49ers' all-time leading rusher.
"Carlos gets football, understands football," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "It's natural for him to understand the game, similar to Frank Gore. (That) bodes well for us."
Gore isn't ready to pass the torch. But he's accepting his mentoring role, as in every other year to every other young back. Last week, Gore posted an Instagram photo with his arm around Hyde at practice -- literally taking Hyde under his wing -- and captioned it: "Good day for the RB."
On a victorious day last September for Ohio State, Hyde rushed for 85 yards, but he got stopped at the goal line by Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, who was drafted by the 49ers 20 spots after Hyde's selection.
Borland's scouting report on Hyde: "He's a really good player. He's a slippery guy. He's quick. He might not have the 40 speed, but he makes up for it when it's game time. He's a hard guy to block. He makes plays, which is good."
Hyde emerged from a three-game suspension to rush for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. (The suspension stemmed from being accused of assaulting a woman at a bar, though no charges were filed.)
Hyde's receiving skills were on display Sunday when he snagged a 20-yard dart from Colin Kaepernick. Those hands complement a self-described "violent" rushing style that's keyed Hyde's once-abandoned career.
"Living in Cincinnati, I never would have guessed I'd be here today," said Hyde, who turns 23 on Sept. 20. "But if you stay true to your dreams and keep focused, anything is possible."
For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers.
Position: RB Exp.: Rookie
HEIGHT: 6-0 WEIGHT: 230
AGE: 22 COLLEGE: Ohio State
Drafted: Second round, 57th overall
Rushing: 41 games, 523 attempts, 3,198 yards, 6.1 yards per attempt, 37 touchdowns
Receiving: 34 catches, 271 yards, four touchdowns