SANTA CLARA -- Nick Mullens looked calm while taking his first NFL snaps in his first NFL start Thursday night.
He led the 49ers' offense down the field and threw touchdown passes on his first two drives of the game. But he said he never really felt at ease until the clock ran out and the 49ers had secured a 34-3 win over the Raiders at Levi’s Stadium.
“I was on edge until the clock hit zero, to be honest,” Mullens said. “I was just ready to win and ready to just keep going. The O-line, we worked together with the skills guys, and thought we worked well as a unit.”
Mullens was thrust into the spotlight in front of a national television audience with C.J. Beathard still limited with wrist and thumb issues. Mullens found out Wednesday he would be the starter against the Raiders.
How did he sleep?
"I slept good, except I woke up every hour,” Mullens said without a hint of irony.
While Beathard came to the 49ers as a third-round draft pick in 2017, Mullens signed with the 49ers as a free agent from the same draft class.
Mullens took one pre-draft visit a year ago after the completion of his record-breaking career at Southern Miss. He visited the 49ers. When he went undrafted and other teams called to ask him to sign, he made the easy choice to join the 49ers.
He spent his entire rookie season on the 49ers' practice squad. Finally, Mullens moved up to the 49ers’ 53-man roster this year after starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.
“I think I’m here for a reason, and this was my opportunity to prove that I can play,” Mullens said.
And that is exactly what he did.
Mullens became the first player to throw two or more touchdown passes in his first NFL start with the 49ers. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His passer rating was 151.9.
Mullens said he prepared for his opportunity through hard work and study. He even did some out-of-the-box thinking to help himself.
After a college career in which he took snaps exclusively out of the shotgun formation, he used video instruction to familiarize himself with how to take snaps under center before preparing for the East-West Shrine Game.
Then, after coming to the 49ers, he downloaded crowd noise on Apple Music and practiced reciting play calls, as if he were in the huddle at a raucous road stadium.
Mullens describes himself as “chill” in the locker room, but he said he relished the opportunity to speak to his teammates before Thursday’s game.
“On game day, I love to compete,” Mullens said. “That’s what’s it’s all about. So I was ready to go, and the whole team was. We brought great energy and played with great energy on offense, defense and special teams.”
Mullens said he also was appreciative of his teammates for not tuning him out. He said he talks a lot in the huddle, giving constant encouragement to the 10 players around him.
“I appreciate that they listen in the huddle,” he said. “I’m probably pretty annoying sometimes, to be honest. But I appreciate that they listen and respected me and gave me a chance to lead the offense.
“Everybody worked well tonight. I think we distributed the ball well. We ran the ball well, and they blocked their butts off up front. I thought everybody worked well together.”
It was an all-around great night for Mullens.
During the game, Mullens received Twitter verification and picked up thousands of new followers.
“I guess, it's pretty cool," Mullens said. "(But) I was really excited about a lot more things than that.”
That's understandable. After all, he received a pre-game text from Southern Miss alum Brett Favre. Afterward, on the NFL Network set, Favre congratulated Mullens in a phone call.
“He just told me how proud of me he was," Mullens said. "He sent me a message before the game. He said, ‘No pressure. Just be yourself,’ and that’s what I tried to do before the game and during the game. So (I) just tried to stay calm out there and lead the offense."