George Krieger Kittle (born October 9, 1993) is an American football tight end for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, and was drafted by the 49ers in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and a First-team All-Pro selection.
Kittle was born in Madison, Wisconsin and moved to Iowa at a young age. He attended Iowa City West High School in Iowa City, Iowa, Cedar Falls High School in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma. He committed to the University of Iowa to play college football. His father, Bruce Kittle, also played at Iowa and is a former college football coach.
As a top tight end prospect, Kittle was one of 19 collegiate tight ends to receive an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana. He completed the majority of drills, but opted to skip the short shuttle and three-cone drill. Kittle’s overall performance was well perceived, as he finished third among tight ends in the broad jump, fifth in the 40-yard dash, and finished sixth among his position group in the vertical jump. On March 27, 2017, Kittle participated at Iowa’s Pro Day, along with C. J. Beathard, Desmond King, Jaleel Johnson, Greg Mabin, Riley McCarron, and four other prospects. He completed his combine drills, finishing the short shuttle (4.55s), three-cone drill, and also ran positional drills. Scouts and team representatives from all 32 NFL teams attended, including Cincinnati Bengals’ tight end coach Jonathan Hayes. At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Kittle was projected to be a third or fourth round pick by NFL draft experts and scouts. He was ranked the fifth best tight end prospect in the draft by NFL analyst Mike Mayock, sixth best by NFL analyst Gil Brandt, and was ranked the eighth best tight end by NFLDraftScout.com.
Throughout training camp, he competed against Garrett Celek, Vance McDonald, Logan Paulsen, Blake Bell, and Cole Hikutini for the job as the starting tight end. Head coach Kyle Shanahan named Kittle the starting tight end to start the regular season.
Kittle made his NFL debut in the 49ers’ season-opener against the Carolina Panthers and caught five passes for 27 yards in a 23–3 loss. He caught his first NFL reception on a 13-yard pass from Brian Hoyer on the first drive and was tackled by Panthers’ safety Mike Adams. On October 8, 2017, Kittle made seven receptions for 83 yards and his first NFL touchdown during a 26–23 overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts. During a Week 9 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, Kittle caught three passes for 27 yards, before leaving the 20–10 loss with a leg injury. He was inactive due to the injury and missed the following game against the New York Giants.
Kittle finished his rookie season with 43 receptions for 515 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games.
In the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, Kittle had five receptions for 90 yards in a 24–16 loss. During Week 4 against the Los Angeles Chargers, Kittle recorded an 82-yard touchdown reception as part of a 125-yard performance as the 49ers narrowly lost by a score of 29–27. During Week 7 against the Los Angeles Rams, he had five receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown in the 39–10 loss. During Week 14 against the Denver Broncos, Kittle set a franchise record for reception yards by a tight end with 210, all coming in the first half, as well as becoming the first 49ers tight end to surpass 1,000 receiving yards. During the season finale against the Rams, Kittle broke Travis Kelce‘s single-season receiving yards record for a tight end, less than an hour after Kelce broke the record, on a 43-yard touchdown and finished the season with 1,377 yards. The record was again broken by Kelce in 2020.
Through the first four weeks of 2019 NFL season, during which the 49ers played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers, Kittle earned the highest overall Pro Football Focus grade of any player in the NFL. After a Week 4 bye, the 49ers faced the Cleveland Browns. In that game, Kittle had six receptions for 70 yards and his first touchdown of the season in the 31–3 victory. In the next game against the Los Angeles Rams, he caught eight passes for 103 yards in the 20–7 road victory. Three weeks later against the Arizona Cardinals, Kittle suffered a knee injury on the first play of the game and was forced to miss the next few plays. He returned to the game and caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in the 28–25 road victory. However, he was forced to miss the next two games due to the injury. He returned in Week 12 against the Green Bay Packers. In the game, Kittle caught six passes for 129 yards and a touchdown in the 37–8 victory. Facing the New Orleans Saints in Week 14, he made a crucial 4th and 2 catch that went for 39 yards-17 of which he made while being face-masked by Saints cornerback Marcus Williams while carrying two other defenders. The catch set up the game-winning field goal. The 49ers won 48–46. During Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons, Kittle finished with 13 catches for 134 yards as the 49ers lost 22–29. Following the loss, he was named to his second Pro Bowl with over 340,000 votes.
On August 13, Kittle signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the 49ers with an $18 million signing bonus, making him the highest-paid tight end in the league. After missing two games due to a knee injury, Kittle returned in Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football, finishing with 183 receiving yards and a touchdown as the 49ers lost 20–25.  In Week 6 against the Los Angeles Rams, he had seven receptions for 109 receiving yards and one touchdown in the 24-16 victory. On November 5, 2020, Kittle was placed on injured reserve with a broken bone in his foot. He was activated on December 25, 2020.