Before Thursday night you probably hadn't heard of Nick Mullens.
The second-year quarterback started the season on the 49ers practice squad and if not for an injury to Jimmy Garoppolo might still be there waiting to throw his first pass in a professional game.
He finally got a chance to throw one, as well as 21 others Thursday night. In what was the best debut by a 49ers quarterback in team history, he completed 16 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns and led San Francisco to a 34-3 win over Oakland. Joe Montana and Steve Young threw for 116 yards and one touchdown combined in their debuts.
Mullens, who signed with the 49ers in 2017 as an undrafted free agent, became the 12th player since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to throw at least three touchdowns in his first game. The last players to do it: Marcus Mariota (in 2015 against the Bucs) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (in 2005).
Credit 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.
Credit Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken, too.
Monken recruited Mullens to play at Southern Mississippi in 2013. When Monken took over as coach of the Golden Eagles that season, they were coming off an 0-12 campaign in which they had scored fewer than 20 points per game. In 2015, Monken's third season, they went 9-5, played in a bowl game and scored nearly 40 points per game.
One of the driving forces behind the turnaround: Mullens. In his junior season, he set school single-season records in touchdown passes (38), passing yards (4,476) and completions (331). He threw at least three touchdowns in seven of Southern Mississippi's 14 games. He also holds records in career touchdown passes (87) and passing yards (11,994).
Monken resigned from the program after the 2015 season to join the Bucs coaching staff.
"He did a lot for this program," said Mullens, via the Biloxi Sun-Herald. "He recruited me, he developed me, he made me the quarterback I am today. He made Southern Miss come back. He was the leader. He deserves all the credit for that."
Monken and Mullens might reunite this season. The Bucs host the 49ers on Nov. 25.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @tometrics.