ALAMEDA -- Nick Mullens and Jalen Richard spent three seasons working from the same backfield. Mullens called signals for Southern Mississippi, while Richard toted the rock.
The Golden Eagles were awful early in that run, but those two skill players brought the program back to respectability in 2015. That was Richard's final college season, before he became an impact Raiders running back.
Mullens followed Richard to the NFL the following year, and spent 2017 as a 49ers practice-squad quarterback.
Mullens texted Richard earlier this week, hoping to exchange jerseys Thursday night after the first game they'll spend on opposite sidelines.
Mullens' jersey might not be clean. Starting 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard is questionable to play this battle of Bay Area teams, when the Raiders and 49ers clash at Levi's Stadium.
That means Mullens could make his first NFL start in primetime, against a Bay Area rival.
Richard knows him as well as anyone, and doesn't believe Mullens will wilt under a spotlight.
"The pressure won't get to him. He has always been that guy (who rises to the occasion)," said, Richard the Raiders' productive third-down back. "He played big games (in high school) and came to school with us and go us out of the hole we were in. (Then Southern Mississippi head coach Todd Monken) brought him in and started him as a freshman and all four years he was there. He's been in every type of game, good and bad. He's had highs and lows. He's going to go out and have fun."
Richard might make it harder to do so. Raiders coaches have picked Richard's brain about Mullens in an attempt to gain an advantage on game day.
The Raiders will certainly try and confuse such a green player, but enter understanding he can beat a Silver and Black defense that has struggled against everyone.
"(Mullens) was a good player in the preseason – athletic guy," Gruden said. "You never underestimate anybody in this league. He did some really good things as a quarterback in the preseason. We have a lot of respect for whoever is under center."
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan says Beathard will be a true game-time decision, leaving uncertainty surrounding the opposing quarterback.
Richard always though Mullens was an NFL caliber player, even back in college when he started as a true freshman at Southern Mississippi.
"He has a strong-enough arm. He's accurate enough, even though he's not going to wow you," Richard said. "His quarterback IQ, his football IQ, his ability to read a defense and know every receiver's route and know where to go with the ball is spot on. He has always been good at that."