SANTA CLARA -- Fullback Owen Marecic, a former Stanford star under coach Jim Harbaugh, signed a one-year deal and took the roster spot of defensive tackle Ian Williams, who went on season-ending injured reserve with a broken ankle.
Marecic played sparingly the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns before they released him Aug. 27. He's expecting to backup Bruce Miller at fullback and contribute on special teams.
"It's a great backfield, an awesome opportunity, and I'll do everything I can to try to contribute and improve it," said Marecic, who also played linebacker at Stanford but doesn't anticipate being used that way here.
Marecic is the first player to join the 49ers' 53-man roster who played under Harbaugh at Stanford, although safety Michael Thomas is on the practice squad, as were a handful of others before him.
After the Browns drafted Marecic in the fourth round (124th overall), Harbaugh called him a "49ers kind of guy" and said they did "everything we could" to take him. Instead, the 49ers drafted Aldon Smith (7th), Colin Kaepernick (36th), Chris Culliver (80th) and Kendall Hunter (115th). "I'll be a fan because I love the way he plays football," Harbaugh said on that 2011 draft day.
Asked if he was crushed by not getting picked by the 49ers, Marecic said Tuesday: "Cleveland gave me a great opportunity. The guys here have done a heck of a job. There's a lot of talent. Very humbling to see the success the team and coaches have had around here. Going to try to learn from those guys to improve my game and get it where it needs to be."
Marecic's addition continues an odd trend of ex-Browns recently joining the 49ers: quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace (the later got released Aug. 31), kicker Phil Dawson, safety Bubba Ventrone and offensive consultant Eric Mangini.
"A lot of familiar faces," said Marecic, who worked out for the 49ers two weeks ago and has since spent time training in his hometown of Portland.
In his Browns tenure, he had only four carries (8 yards) and five receptions (31 yards) in 24 games (six starts). He dropped all four passes intended for him last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com
Miller has been the 49ers' starting fullback since 2011, and he was a Pro Bowl alternate last season. Miller committed a holding penalty that led to a safety and Seattle's first points in Sunday night's 29-3 loss for the 49ers.
"Coach Harbaugh, one thing he always harps on is competition," Miller said. "Owen is a great football player so there is competition at that position. I just have to keep worrying about my job and focusing on what I need to do to get better."