Image Credit: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle
Twenty-four years ago today, two brothers were born. These were not twins born to the same mother. Nor were they even born in the same region. These were brothers of destiny, destined to be future teammates in the NFL. One of them came into this world via Little Rock, Arkansas. That was quarterback Nick Mullens. The other entered this world by way of Sacramento, California. He was cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. And on this day the 21st of March, their 24th birthdays, we honor them by taking a look at their paths to the NFL and the San Francisco 49ers.
Nick Mullens was born in Arkansas and grew up in Hoover, Alabama. There he attended Spain Park High School, where he excelled at the quarterback position. In his senior year, he threw for 3,649 yards and 40 touchdowns. That performance earned him the 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year award for the state of Alabama. And after a stellar high school football career, he committed to the University of Southern Mississippi.
At Southern Miss, Mullens got to work quickly. Whether he consciously realized it or not he was on a path to surpass records put in place by a very famous alum, Brett Favre. Mullens played for four seasons with the Golden Eagles appearing in 44 games. In the 2015 season he threw for 4,476 yards and 38 touchdowns which set school single season records. In the 2016 season in a game against Rice, Mullens threw for 591 yards and four touchdowns. That set a single game school record for yards passing. And on multiple occasions he threw for five touchdowns which tied a school record. He finished his career at Southern Miss with 11,994 yards passing and 87 touchdowns both career records at the school.
Mullens went undrafted in the 2017 NFL draft. But he did catch the eye of the 49ers staff who signed him as an undrafted free agent. He would spend the 2017 season as a member of the practice squad. But his number would be called midway through the 2018 season. With injuries to the Jimmy Garoppolo and C.J. Beathard, the top two quarterbacks on the roster, Mullens was activated for a Thursday night game against the Oakland Raiders and made his first start. He absolutely stunned fans on primetime looking like a seasoned vet. He threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns with 0 interceptions, giving the 49ers a 34-3 victory against the Raiders. He also got verified on Twitter during the game! All major accomplishments!
Mullens would finish the remainder of the season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. There would be ups and downs. But he showed poise and composure during the roughest stretches. He will go into the 2019 season as a backup to Garoppolo who is coming back from ACL injury. But if 2018 was any preview of Mullens’ capabilities, he will be a starter in the league one day for sure!
Ahkello Witherspoon was born and raised in Sacramento, California. He descended from a long line of talent. His grandfather was blues/jazz musician and singer Jimmy Witherspoon, and his father Lucky Witherspoon was a running back at the University of Nevada. He garnered many talents throughout his youth. He played soccer, baseball, and basketball. In case all that wasn’t enough he also plays the drums and sings!
Witherspoon attended Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, CA, but he did not begin playing football until his senior year. The coordination and speed accrued from his other sports came together to make him a successful defensive back on the football field. During his senior season he recorded 25 tackles, one interception and four passes defended. He would go onto play one season at Sacramento City College before transferring to the University of Colorado.
Witherspoon played three seasons at Colorado, appearing in 29 games. During that stretch he recorded 71 tackles, three interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and 24 passes defended. During the 2016 season, he had 19 passes defended which led the NCAA. That stellar performance earned him Second-Team All-Pac-12 honors. After his college career at Colorado came to a close, he decided to pursue a career in the NFL. In the 2017 NFL draft he was selected by the 49ers in the third round (66th overall).
Witherspoon got his first NFL playing time in a game against the Indianapolis Colts on October 8, 2017. He would end up getting his first start at cornerback a few weeks later on October 29 against the Philadelphia Eagles. That game also saw him getting his first career interception, picking off Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. He would finish the season with 32 tackles, two interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 7 passes defended. His success in his rookie year earned him a role as starting cornerback for the 49ers in the 2018 season.
Witherspoon had an up and down year in 2018 that unfortunately included injury and ended with him being placed on the injured reserve list. He will look to bounce back in 2019 and reclaim that starting cornerback position!
Well there you have it. The story of two brothers of destiny coming together to play for the 49ers.
And on behalf of all the staff at the 49ers Hub we would like to wish Ahkello and Nick both, a very Happy 24th Birthday!
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