Two years ago, Albert McClellan was starting at Marshall University. On Thanksgiving night, he was starting in place of Ray Lewis.

McClellan, an undrafted rookie who spent the 2010 season on the Ravens practice squad, started in the team’s 16-6 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Thursday night. He filled in for Lewis, the 12-time Pro Bowler who missed his second straight contest due to an injured toe on his right foot.

“I was excited, starting my first NFL game,” McClellan said. “I was a little nervous. Wanted to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes, make sure that I went out and just had fun. My biggest thing was going out and having fun.”

Initially groomed as an outside linebacker, McClellan started alongside fellow inside linebacker Jameel McClain and finished with four tackles. It was surreal, according to McClellan.

“No, I don’t think too many people can dream of that one, filling in the shoes of Ray Lewis,” he said with a smile. “But it was fun. I enjoyed being out there. Jameel gave me a lot of pointers all week. He had my back the whole week. So did [inside linebacker Dannell] Ellerbe and as well as Ray. We all just stuck together, and they had confidence in me, and I think I proved them right.”