RENO, Nev. — Colin Kaepernick begins the day at the University of Nevada football practice field with his teammates, all of them warming up their bodies with a few sprints and a light jog around the facility. Everyone looks alive, even though it’s six in the morning.
Everyone’s ready to work, especially Kaepernick. After a trainer stretched him out in the physical therapy room of the school’s football training facility just a few feet away from Mackay Stadium, he stands front and center as a coach calls attendance. The coach, in a drill instructor’s tone, tells the players that all they’re required to do for this weight training session is a few reps of squats — after that, it’s up to them.
Kaepernick decides to stick around for awhile.
Playing college ball
It was four years ago that Kaepernick arrived at the Nevada campus as a 6-foot-6, 205-pound freshman out of Pitman High in Turlock. Just months earlier, he struggled to convince college coaches that he wanted to throw the pigskin around — not a baseball.All that was left to do was to show he belonged here.
Kyle, his older brother, remembered when Colin used to slam the door of his room and stay there the entire day, thinking things over after a bad game. And it was this kind of drive to win that has helped him through Nevada, as he’s entering his senior year as the starting quarterback of the Wolf Pack.
His competitiveness has also helped him become one of the most unique talents in the nation, evidenced by the fact that he’s the only player in NCAA football history to compile back-to-back seasons of 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. Many think that he’s destined to do it a third time this season.
Home sweet home
He puts in at least a solid hour in the weight room. It’s almost 9 a.m. He heads to his house, which stands on the hilly outskirts of Reno.
He lives with one of his best friends, teammate and wide receiver Brandon Wimberly, and two junior college transfers. It’s a big house, with each of them having their own rooms. He’s alone this morning, though. His roommates left for their hometown of Los Angeles after completing their week’s worth of workouts. Their home is spacious, especially the living room. A fish tank is in the middle, and the half closest to the entrance is mostly empty. The other half has a long couch and a spinning black chair. This is where Kaepernick and his roommates spend most of their time when they’re not playing football.
Here is where Kaepernick earned the right to be called Mario Kart house champ.
Here is where he watches TV, though he says he watches very little football because during the regular season he spends some four hours a day taking in game film. Here is where he lets himself slip into a dream state, after long hours of training.
He insists he doesn’t do much else, though he’s just a short drive from the main strip of Reno, where he could gamble all night if he wanted to. He might invite friends over or go to a friend’s house. Often times, he’ll catch a movie. And if he really feels adventurous, he’ll go bowling.
“I’m here for school and football,” he said. “My focus is getting my degree, and football is going in the direction I want it to. So I’m trying not to do anything that can mess it up.”
His dad says he’s not a drinker. In fact, Kaepernick is known as the designated driver. There have been occasions when his friends call him at 2 a.m. because they need a ride home, sometimes not knowing he has training in four hours. He does it. No whining, no yawning, no excuses.
The daily grind
Once he’s finished with his meal — eight scrambled eggs and two protein shakes — he changes into a long-sleeved white shirt with a Nevada logo, his uniform for the day at Silver and Blue Outfitters at Meadowood Mall. And this is where the surreal messes with reality. Part of his job — an internship that will help him land a business management degree — is to sell Nevada apparel to Nevada fans.
“It really gets weird when I sell a No. 10 jersey,” he says, referring to his uniform number.On this day — July 23 — he opens the store alone. Typically, at least one other person — sometimes it might be store owners Brad Platt or Mark Glodowski — helps him get things organized before the first customer walks in. He counts the money in the register. He turns on all the lights. He fires up the computer. He straightens out the clothes, most of them in silver and blue, of course. And once again, irony kicks in, as he walks past photos of him in action.
There’s one that immortalizes his friendship with Wimberly. It’s the Notre Dame game last September, and Colin’s running from the right side of the picture. Wimberly is there for a block, smashing a Fighting Irish right into the middle of the frame. But what’s golden about this moment is that the Fighting Irish’s teammate on the sideline has his jaw dropped, a natural reaction to seeing someone having their entire being rearranged.
“It’s crazy,” he says. “I remember exactly when that happened.”
Show him a photo and he can tell you the exact game, the exact quarter, the exact play, the exact moment.
This is Colin’s last day of his internship. He’s been working here since June, and he likes it. The job keeps him grounded. Customers walk in and give him double-takes, because it’s not every day a 6-foot-6 man who’s built like a sledgehammer is ringing up their purchases.
Eye on the ball
Before six in the evening, Kaepernick stops by a McDonald’s to pick up a quick meal, which helps him reach his daily goal of 6,000 calories. He stops by his home to change into his workout gear and heads back to the Nevada campus for two more hours in the weight room before practicing his throws with teammates.
The last thing he does is critical. Yes, Kaepernick has put up historic numbers under the pistol offense. But the critics say he’s not much of a passer. So this summer, he’s been endlessly perfecting his throw. In the past, his ideal of a perfect pass was simply putting the ball in the receiver’s hands. But he’s now, for example, thinking about the spacing of the pass and making sure that the receiver has room to run after the catch.
By the time he’s done, he’s too tired to do anything else, even though it’s a Friday night.
On this evening, he says he’s going straight home to slink into his couch.And, perhaps, he’ll dream a little.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.