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Kaepernick ends productive college career with bowl win

Kaepernick ends productive college career with bowl win

A young kid expresses his adulation toward Pitman High graduate Colin Kaepernick with a homemade sign during Nevada's 20-13 win over Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.


POSTED January 11, 2011 11:48 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO — It must be said now that University of Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick did not have his best night in his Carnegie Hall moment.

He threw an interception and fumbled the ball away.

He rushed for 22 yards, the equivalent of Michael Jordan settling for a single-digit performance during his prime.

Kaepernick was — via a popular sports vernacular — contained, something that many of his past foes cannot claim.

But he didn’t care. The Pitman High graduate became a winner for the 13th time this season on Sunday night after the then-No. 15 Wolf Pack survived Boston College in a 20-13 victory in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in front of a mostly Nevada crowd of 41,063 — including several hundred from the Turlock area — and a televised ESPN audience.

Not a bad farewell at all for a Turlock kid who has been projected to be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft.After Sunday’s game, Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault called Kaepernick one of the best football players the at least century-old program has ever had. This is the same dual-threat quarterback who produced numbers that some might think were accomplished by two players.

“To our program, to our university and to our community, he is the poster child for Wolf Pack football,” Ault said. “He’s what you always talk about. Forget the athleticism. Just the person. As I have said, he’s as a competitive player as I ever had. He’s a winner. He will find a way to win. And that’s what he has done for us.”

But Kaepernick almost didn’t become a Wolf Pack member. Just like many other schools during the recruitment season of 2005-06, Nevada was concerned that the tall, slender kid with a strong throwing arm would end up choosing baseball. Just about every college stayed away from him, not wanting to risk a scholarship on someone who was predicted to have a better future on the pitching mound than becoming a signal caller. Except for Ault and his program, which only made an offer after asking Colin‘s father, Rick, over and over again if Colin wanted to play football.

Colin Kaepernick arrived in Reno as a skinny quarterback. His first big break came after starting quarterback Nick Graziano suffered a season-ending foot injury during the Fresno State game in 2007, the fifth game of the season. Kaepernick’s final stats look like they’re from a video game, though he entered the game about midway through the second quarter in a thrilling 49-41 loss: He threw 384 yards and four touchdowns.

Before his first official start on Oct. 14 of that same year at Boise State, Kaepernick once told The Turlock Journal that he remembers a fan yelling from the stands about a Boise State player readying to break his leg. Welcome to college football, he thought. Coincidentally, Kaepernick did some hurt by leading Nevada to a near-upset in an unbelievable 69-67 loss in quadruple overtime, amassing for 249 yards passing and three TDs and rushing for another 177 yards and two scores.

He hasn’t slowed down since.

He finished his college career with more than 14,000 passing and rushing yards and a mind-bending 82 touchdowns, numbers that will likely remain untouched in the Nevada record books for many years to come. But he doesn’t like talking about his own personal accomplishments. A reporter at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl press conference asked Kaepernick to sum up his stay at Nevada. He couldn’t do it.

“I can’t say that’s my legacy,” he said. “There’s a lot of other seniors that’s been here with me.”

Sixteen other seniors, to be exact. And all of them would undoubtedly say they couldn’t have achieved Nevada’s most memorable season without Kaepernick. The run included reaching the nation’s top 25 poll for the first time in 62 years, sharing the Western Athletic Conference title, finishing with a school-tying 13 wins and earning respect from all over the country after taking down mighty Boise State on Nov. 26, 2010.

And Kaepernick capped it all off by beating a BCS team.

“We’ve been through so much together,” he said. “So many hard times, so many good times. Just walking off that field it was just exciting to see us finally pull through in a bowl game.”

He’s been profiled in all the major publications in the U.S. Through it all, he has remained humble. A biographer can probably fill a book of stories about Kaepernick and his unselfish ways with family, friends, fans, coaches and members of the media. He’s been opened about telling his story, one that evolves on a bi-racial child being adopted into a white family before experiencing his childhood and teenage life in Turlock.

And on a night that wasn’t his best, Kaepernick wasn’t ashamed to say that he and his offense didn’t get it done against Boston College: “Our defense was huge tonight. When we didn’t make a play, they did.”

Kaepernick committed an early fumble that led to a BC score. He later threw an interception. The Nevada offense managed a season-low 114 yards on the ground (just 22 from Kaepernick), had its lowest-scoring output and finished more than 200 yards short of its season average.He had his moments, though. He dodged a pack of Eagles before getting loose on the left side and finding an uncovered Rishard Matthews for a 27-yard score in the first quarter.

But once again, he didn’t care about his so-so numbers. Nor did his fans, who stopped him after the game for photos, hugs and handshakes.

“It’s definitely surreal, being in that position,” Kaepernick said about being compared to a rock star. “Growing up, you see people go through that, you never think you’d be there. You hope that you can be the player that everybody wants to get a picture with or have a poster of — or something like that. To actually have that happen, it’s very surreal.”

And all this happened on an unspectacular night.

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlokjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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