C.J. Beathard admitted he was a bit star struck when he took the field last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. He called it his "welcome to the NFL" moment.
"This has been my dream since I was a kid," Beathard said Saturday night. "When I stepped out there on my first drive, it was one of those surreal moments. It's my job now and you've got to act like you've been there before."
His early jitters quickly subsided as the rookie led the San Francisco 49ers to a come-from-behind victory. Beathard's encore performance against the Denver Broncos didn't disappoint, either. The quarterback led a swift three-play, 72-yard touchdown drive to open the second half.
It was only fitting that the scoring play came on a 29-yard catch-and-run by Beathard's college teammate George Kittle. The tight end caught a short pass in the left flat, ran over one defender and stiff-armed another on his way into the end zone.
"You always have to expect to get into the end zone," Kittle said postgame. "You have to, right? I came out of the first tackle surprised that I was still in bounds. I just kept running and then I was like, 'Oh I'm in the end zone.' That's really how it happened."
Added Beathard: "He does a great job after the catch of making guys miss. He trucked a guy to get in the end zone. It was a good job by him."
The pair of Iowa Hawkeyes have been headline-grabbers since arriving in the Bay Area. Kittle was the star of the offseason program. He'd been hindered by a hamstring injury earlier in training camp, but his touchdown catch has the hype train leaving the station once again. The tight end finished with three catches for 33 yards. Most importantly, Kittle assured reporters afterwards that his hamstring is back to 100 percent.
Beathard is in the middle of a competition with Matt Barkley to be the 49ers backup quarterback. Through two preseason games, Beathard has completed 14-of-23 passes for 211 yards, three touchdowns and a passer rating of 130.6. Put simply, he looks like he belongs.
The quarterback has even mastered veteran-speak, downplaying his early preseason success.
"That's for the coaches to decide on and evaluate," Beathard said. "I'm critical of myself and I feel like there were plays that I can improve on and get better at. That's part of football. You're never going to play a perfect game. I'm always trying to get better."
Kittle was much more bullish on the 49ers rookie quarterback, whom he played with for five years at Iowa. The two last connected for a pair of touchdowns on senior night against Nebraska. Before that, they helped Iowa go 12-2 in 2015 and earn a spot in the Rose Bowl.
"He is the most competitive person I've ever met in my life," Kittle said of Beathard. "You've got a guy who just cares about football."
The tight end lauded Beathard for the toughness he exhibited during Iowa's Rose Bowl run.
"He played most of that season pretty banged up," Kittle added. "He was jumping over guys and taking big hits. He got up every single time and never came out of the game. He will never quit on you, no matter what the score is or how he feels. Those are great qualities."
Beathard and Kittle, a third- and fifth-round pick, respectively, must have John Lynch feeling like he hit a couple home runs in his first draft as San Francisco's general manager.