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Kaepernick’s rise: From Turlock to New Orleans

Kaepernick’s rise: From Turlock to New Orleans

All over Turlock former coaches, teammates, and opponents are recalling moments from their shared past with Colin as he prepares to play in the biggest sporting event in the country.

POSTED February 1, 2013 9:30 p.m.

I remember Colin Kaepernick as a tall, skinny kid with a rifle for an arm. We grew up competing against each other for the better part of eight years, me with the Turlock 49ers and Turlock Bulldogs and him with the Turlock Vikings and Pitman Pride. In those days Colin wasn’t the fleet footed runner he is today—but he was still a threat.

As I watched him roll through the NFC post-season I couldn’t help but think back to when we were 13 years old, playing against each other in the Super Bowl in our last year of youth football. The Vikings had always eluded us, but with only a few seconds on the clock and a 6-0 lead in our hands we thought we had finally beat them. We were wrong.

On the final play of regulation they threw a desperation pass into the end zone. We all watched the ball sail through the air for what seemed like forever and cringed as we saw Colin leap over our defender, snatch the ball at its highest point, and land just in bounds for the winning score. Colin was at it again three years later—this time behind center—with Pitman High in the inaugural Harvest Bowl where he again led his team to a dramatic last minute victory.

He dealt with the pressure and dealt us defeat, and it’s been surreal to watch him do the same in the NFL. I’m not alone either. All over Turlock former coaches, teammates, and opponents are recalling moments from their shared past with Colin as he prepares to play in the biggest sporting event in the country.

“I knew from the very beginning that once he got a shot he would do it, he would take the team all the way, because he has that drive and focus—he wants to win,” former youth opponent and high school teammate Anthony Harding said. “I knew this day would happen, but to see it happen this quick; I’m a little surprised.”

Colin’s focus and drive to compete is a common theme. It’s what convinced former Pitman head football coach Larry Nigro to make him his team leader.

“He’s got a fire inside of him. He’s not afraid to take that chance, to put the ball down the field,” Nigro said. “One thing I remember is that he would take responsibility in the huddle. For a young kid to show that type of skill, to take that responsibility early in life, he passed the buck.”

Colin’s competitiveness transcended the football field onto the basketball court and especially the baseball diamond where he was a top pitching prospect. But football was where his heart was; it was his dream. Colin chased that dream to Nevada and into the weight room where he transformed himself into the dual quarterback threat that has stunned so many of his opponents.

 “From his freshman year to his senior year he improved tremendously. Then if you look at him from Pitman High to Nevada, he doubled it again, and now he’s taking it to another level,” Nigro said.

“I don’t think anyone could have envisioned that his body would turn into a gladiator type body,” former Pitman head baseball coach Mick Tate said. “He’s worked hard to get where he’s at. He was always so focused at doing the best he possibly could for his team. Nothing got in his way; he wanted to be the best whenever he competed.”

Focus. Desire. Dedication. It’s what’s needed to excel in sports, to overcome adversity, and to maximize potential. Talent alone isn’t enough to achieve what Colin has on the football field. His rise has been meteoric and has seemingly happened overnight, but it’s been a long road to NFL stardom.

Whatever the outcome on Sunday, Turlock will never forget Colin and his exploits. But if his story book season ends with him holding the Lombardi Trophy Turlock won’t be alone in remembering Colin Kaepernick, football fans all over the world will never forget him and his legacy, in San Francisco at least, will likely never fade.

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