SANTA CLARA — Gather ’round. Gather ’round. It’s storytime about "Celek Time."
A phenomenon is encircling tight end Garrett Celek, the 49ers’ third-longest tenured player. Coaches and players don’t know quite how to describe it.
Celek’s own definition: "Honestly I don’t even know. It was mentioned in a team meeting, then it kind of just took off."
For the past month, Celek has played inspired and productive football, embodying how the 49ers (3-10) have won 3 of 4 games heading into Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans (8-5).
"I guess whenever I get the ball, everyone just starts saying, ‘Celek Time.’ "
Coach Kyle Shanahan gets unofficial credit for coining the term, in the wake of the 49ers initial win Nov. 12 over the New York Giants. Celek made receptions on three consecutive snaps, culminating with a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute before halftime.
"We just started joking there that they didn’t realize that it was ‘Celek Time,’ and it just kind of stuck," Shanahan said. "We thought it was a one-time deal, but it came up again last week so now we’re getting used to it and guys enjoy it."
It’s not as if Celek has bided his time for six seasons. He won a roster spot as an undrafted rookie out of Michigan State, habitually acted like a blue-collar pro and perennially never taken anything for granted.
"I just show up, try to do my job to the best of my ability," Celek said. "… I don’t get more stressed out from different years.
"I don’t ever think I’ve got it made. I attack every day like my job depends on it."
That is the ideal mindset in today’s NFL, where younger and cheaper options exist to push out aging veterans. While rookie George Kittle has shown promise, he’s battled injuries all year. Celek, who’s had his share of back and leg injuries in his career, is thriving and producing.
Of his 17 receptions, 10 have come in the past four games, as have two of his three touchdowns. Rather than celebrate a touchdown again with a two-handed spike, Celek is conjuring up a choreographed skit, one that could rival the one his brother, Brent, did Sunday for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Celek has just gotten better as the year’s gone, so we’ve left him out there more," Shanahan said.
He sparked the 49ers 26-16 win Sunday at Houston, setting up his go-ahead touchdown catch (6 yards) with a career-long reception (61 yards) on third-and-6 from the 49ers’ 19.
In the victorious locker room afterward, "Celek Time" was celebrated.
"Have I heard about it? Of course. It’s exciting," Jimmy Garoppolo said. "The guys love it. He’s one of the fan favorites in the locker room you could say."
"All the guys have been saying it and giving me a hard time," Celek added.
Almost all those guys are new to the 49ers. Celek is their third-longest tenured player, behind offensive lineman Joe Staley (11th season) and Daniel Kilgore (seventh).
When former 49ers tight end Delanie Walker got on a conference call with Bay Area media this week, he cited Staley and Kilgore as his only ex-teammates from the 2012 team that reached the Super Bowl.
"Who else can I say?" Walker said. "It seems they split the team up, and there’s really not a lot of (ex-teammates) there. Those are the only two I could name"
Reminded of Celek, Walker replied: "Oh yeah, Celek is still there. Yes. Indeed."