Hundreds of Turlockers sat down for breakfast on Friday morning to commune together at the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, but attendees were more focused on the stage before them at Larsa Hall than their plates as they tuned in to the words of Turlock native turned professional football player Colin Kaepernick.
As the 21st annual Turlock Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast keynote speaker, Kaepernick reflected on his professional career as the San Francisco 49ers quarterback but also largely touched on his faith, a central component to which he attributes his success. In line with the mission of the annual event, which mirrors the goals of the National Day of Prayer to mobilize prayer across America, the breakfast offered locals an hour with the man behind the helmet.
Coined as the ‘son of Turlock’, Kaepernick sat on stage with Reverend Ronald Youngdale of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church — the same reverend that confirmed Kaepernick in the church as a teenager — in a casual and conversational setting as he discussed the differences between faith and fate and the role his work ethic has played in his performance and success. In a career that has been a test of not only his physical strength but his mental ability, one that requires he memorize at least 400 plays that change from game to game, the National Football League has offered Kaepernick an arena in which to compete against like-minded people in a sport he loves.
“It’s amazing to see how spiritual a locker room can become before a game,” said Kaepernick. “The same guys that are trying to hurt each other on the field are on their knees thanking the Lord and asking for protection before the game.”
By honoring his desire to play football, despite several baseball scholarship offers in high school where he was a standout athlete in three sports with a 4.0 grade point average, Kaepernick advised the audience to also pursue their heart’s desire no matter the doubts of others. A sentiment which is synthesized in his motto “Against all Odds,” which is tattooed across his chest. His tattoos were also a major topic of conversation at the prayer breakfast and the source of what has come to be known as “Kaepernicking”, or the iconic kissing of his bicep tattoo which reads ‘faith’ after scoring a touchdown which the audience gladly performed for him. The sold-out crowd is a testament to the community’s faith in their hometown hero and a support, for which Kaepernick said he is grateful.
“There are a lot of different people that can reach out and pull you different ways and I am grateful for having that foundation from this town that has a lot of the same morals that I was raised with,” said Kaepernick.
The annual event also marked Mayor John Lazar’s eighth prayer breakfast ,which granted him the opportunity to present Kaepernick with a key to the city, a tribute to the inspirational role that Kaepernick has played in the lives of locals young and old. Music was also performed by Turlock native Phil King with several other local dignitaries offering blessings over the city including Westside Ministries Director JoLynn DiGrazia, local businesswoman and Olympian Ali Cox, Pitman High School student Matt Garza, Hilmar High School football coach Frank Marques and Turlock Christian Junior High School Principal Chuck Boswell. Retired professional baseball player and local Turlocker Dave Dravecky, whose wife Jan served as the keynote speaker in 2011, played the role of emcee and succinctly expressed the town’s sentiments towards Kaepernick:
“I think I can speak for this town when I say it is so much fun getting to cheer you on and it is so much fun getting to watch you play football…Thank you for helping us know the man and not just the football player.”