MOBILE, Ala. – With the hyper-analysis of NFL draft prospects, Colin Kaepernick is an interesting study on the field. He’s nearly 6-foot-6 and seems just as likely to gain 10 yards rushing as 10 yards passing on any given play.
But in addition to his intriguing, varied and sometimes unpolished skills on the field, the former Nevada quarterback is just as interesting and pleasantly entertaining off the field.
Kaepernick was born to a single mother who gave him up for adoption at an early age, and he just started hearing from his biological mother before he attended Nevada and more often over the last few years.
“We’ve had a little bit of contact over the last three years through e-mail, but other than that, right now my focus is just on football,” he said, echoing the refrain of the tunnel-visioned hopefuls at the Senior Bowl this week in Mobile, Ala.
“She just wanted time. I have a letter from when I was younger that she gave me as I got older. My adopted parents gave me it. She kind of felt the time was right. It was before I really even started playing at Nevada. It was a good situation.”
He is the product of an inter-racial relationship; his adopted parents are white. And thankfully that was never an issue for him growing up, he said.
When in need of advice, he turns to his adoptive parents, he says, calling them his “rock.”
Kaepernick also comes off as a genuinely humble person, and no story illustrates that more than the day he was working at a Wolfpack-intense sports-apparel store when a woman walked in and wanted to buy a Kaepernick jersey for her son.
“It was very weird,” he said. “… She walked in and it was like, ‘Alright, I’m looking for the quarterback’s jersey for my son.’ I was like, ‘Alright, I think it’s the number 10 jersey,’ and she was like, ‘Are you sure, because I really don’t want to mess it up? He really wants the jersey.’
“(I said), ‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s number 10,’ and she gets the jersey.”
So far, it’s a pretty good, amusing anecdote. But it gets better.
“About a week later, she came walking back in with her son and he had the jersey on and got some stuff,” Kaepernick said. “Her son was like, ‘Mom, that’s him’ and she was like, ‘You’re the one that sold me the jersey.’ It was a cool experience.”
Kaepernick said it was against regulations to autograph the jersey while working in the store, but the boy came out to a practice on a different day and the quarterback autographed it then.
Had the angular 220-pounder not been so intent on playing football, that Wolfpack fan might have eventually been looking for his autograph on a different kind of jersey, the button-down style of baseball uniforms.
Kaepernick’s only Division I scholarship offer for football came from Nevada. He was more highly recruited as a pitcher out of high school, throwing a fastball 95 percent of the time, he said, and topping out at 94 miles per hour. The last level he played baseball was high school, but apparently he made a lasting impression.
“There was three years of no baseball and then randomly got drafted,” he said, referencing his 43rd-round selection by the Chicago Cubs in December 2009.
“Just kind of a flier hoping maybe if football doesn’t work out I would come play," he said. "My heart has been in football and that’s all I know.”
This week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, he’s showing he knows the game pretty well while making all the adjustments to a higher level of competition and pro-style offense that is asking him to process new schemes and new terminology. While most of the reviews on Kaepernick are positive, there are questions about his elongated delivery, if he can handle a pro-style offense, and whether he is too quick to run.
The last question doesn’t have to be a negative, as he showed by becoming the only player in NCAA history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in three straight seasons. He finished his career with 59 rushing touchdowns, tying former Nebraska Husker Eric Crouch for most by a quarterback, and Kaepernick is the first player in college football history to pass for at least 9,000 yards and rush for 4,000.
But even with all the questions, the smile never leaves his face as he calls his Senior Bowl experience “amazing” and appears completely unrattled by the critiques that follow any intriguing prospect these days.
“One thing I always heard was being able to drop back under center and get the ball downfield – make my reads while I’m dropping back from under center, know what the coverage is, where to go with the ball, things like that,” he said. “I think this week is really my first opportunity to really show NFL coaches that I can do that.”
He’s made bigger adjustments before – he was adopted, he moved from Wisconsin to California, and he went from baseball to football – and he’s proving he belongs, even if there are more well-known college football quarterbacks ahead of him in the draft.
“I kind of have the mentality (that) I don’t care who it is, if you put me toe to toe with them, I’m going to give them my best shot. If I lose, I’m going to go down swinging, but I plan on winning.”
He usually does.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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