Nick Mullens will make his ninth career NFL start and his first since 2018 on Sunday against the New York Giants.
It’s been well over a year since Mullens was under center as the 49ers quarterback for a full game. That doesn’t mean that there is a lack of confidence in the former Southern Miss quarterback. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Earlier in the week, both George Kittle and Mohamed Sanu shared how much they believed in the man who will lead the team in Jimmy Garoppolo’s absence. Mullens appreciates their support as he prepares to face the Giants without several key players.
“It's huge,” Mullens said. “It really does, it helps a lot. I enjoy stepping into the huddle and just hearing encouragement from our team captains, like [Kyle Juszczyk] Juice and George, and then the veteran, like Sanu.”
Kittle has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest but he will still be supporting Mullens from the sidelines. The All-Pro tight end has stats to back up why he has confidence in the 25-year-old quarterback.
In Mullens' eight starts in 2018, he connected with Kittle on 51 of his 79 attempts for 793 yards and three touchdowns. Kittle holding the single-season receiving record by an NFL tight end of 1,377 yards is due in large part to Mullens.
Mullens was also under center that season for Kittle’s career-best 210 yards receiving in Week 14 against the Denver Broncos.
This time, Mullens will hit the field with a new cast of characters. Without Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Kittle available, he will have to rely on targets like Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson, JaMychal Hasty, Brandon Aiyuk and Sanu.
Mullens shared that coach Kyle Shanahan’s message of “next man up” is regularly a topic of discussion. It has kept the entire team prepared without hesitation for Sunday’s kickoff.
“I think [it’s] the biggest thing I take away from his team meetings,” Mullens said. “As a professional, it's our expectation, our job, to be able to step in at any time. We’ve got 53 really, really good football players on our team. They're on the roster for a reason.
“Hasty had a great camp. Caught people's eye, very quick. Then Jeff, he's earned every bit of what he got. He started on practice squad last year and just every opportunity he has stepped up. Then Jet, I can't wait for him to get the carries that he's going to get. He's earned every bit, got a great story."
Mullens was complimentary of his newer counterparts, both rookies and veterans who will be his supporting cast. Mullens is expected to lead and motivate his teammates but sometimes, he said, that they do the same for him.
“The coolest thing about last week is Aiyuk,” Mullens said. “When he finished the game, he was so excited to get back out there. That was really cool. He was, ‘Man, I can't wait to get back out there for next Sunday.’ To see the energy behind those guys is awesome.”