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Look at him now
Kaepernick silences doubters and shines
With his speed and experience, Pitman High graduate Colin Kaepernick is expected to take his Nevada Wolf Pack to another stellar season. - photo by Photo contributed by John Byrne/Nevada Media Services
Suppose you’ve been doubted all your life and people keep saying you’ve been doing the wrong thing, implying that your destiny lies somewhere else.
That is just a glimpse into Colin Kaepernick’s head.
He’s not much of a bragger. He’s not much of a talker, unless he really has something to say. For some time, he was passive about telling teammates what to do, though that was part of his duties. But he’ll use all those doubts as motivation. He’ll just stick to what he loves, and that’s football.
He’s doing great now. He’s the junior quarterback at the University of Nevada, a team that was picked earlier this week by coaches and the media to finish second in the Western Athletic Conference. And Kaepernick, who was a big part of the first group of players at Pitman High School, was chosen to repeat as the WAC’s offensive player of the year.
Last season, he became the face of Nevada’s famous Pistol offense, highlighted by the fact that he was the fifth player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
But still, there were some doubts.
“If you know Colin, he loves that and he’s going to show you,” said his father, Rick Kaepernick. “I don’t think he knows the word ‘can’t.’ He’s going to challenge and address it.”

A triple threat

At Pitman, he was Mr. Everything. He was a tall, athletic kid with the talent to excel in three different sports: baseball, football and basketball. He garnered accolades in all three. He was the reason why the No. 16 Pride almost upset No. 1 Oak Ridge High in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I basketball playoffs in 2006, as he scored 31 points in a 75-65 effort.
But there was one sport that stood out.
It’s natural to say football, considering he’s the quarterback of one of the most exciting, explosive and dangerous offenses at the college level. Kaepernick’s name is synonymous with the Pistol offense, one that was created by his coach, Chris Ault, five years ago to give the dual threat the shotgun formation of reading a defense, but closer to the line as a running back is set directly behind — allowing the option to pass, run or hand it off.
These days, Kaepernick is arguably the biggest name in the WAC, thanks to two years of starting and his 2008 season. And his name could possibly morph into a household name depending on his performance against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. — one of the most intimidating football cathedrals in the country — on Sept. 5 in the season opener. The showdown will be broadcast on NBC.
Kaepernick has “a certain command of the offense and he understands what we want to do,” Ault said. “Maturity is a great ally to quarterbacks. He has had tremendous experience the past two years. He’s a more efficient quarterback in terms of what we want to do with our playbook. His best is yet to come.”
But Kaepernick might not be here if it wasn’t for the doubters.
Every one knew Kaepernick loved football, from the time he played in the Punt, Pass & Kick program during halftime of an Oakland Raiders game at 8 years old and felt the electricity of performing in front of thousands of people.
But people kept on repeating one thing: “That Colin Kaepernick, he has a very promising baseball career.”

A promising baseball career

So, how good was Kaepernick as a baseball player?
He was a big reason why Pitman played for the SJS D-I championship against Elk Grove High in 2006, his final high school season. Pro scouts kept notes of his ability to throw all kinds of pitches, including one at 90-plus mph.
A representative from Major League Baseball sat in the family’s living room that season, asking Kaepernick about playing professionally. The rep wanted to sign him up for the upcoming MLB Draft.
Kaepernick said no thanks. Baseball, according to his father, wasn’t exciting enough. It wasn’t like football, where he could throw rockets in the sky to a teammate or take the gem all the way to the end zone. In baseball, he had to rest about four days after pitching. Kaepernick wasn’t the type of kid to simply watch and cheer, when he could be out on the field working every day on his game — and proving people wrong.
MLB came knocking again this summer. The Chicago Cubs selected him in the 43rd round of the draft, despite the fact that he hadn’t thrown a pitch since the high school section game.
Again, he said no to baseball.
He has a promise to keep.
“My sole focus is football,” Kaepernick said. “It’s a great honor. But at this point in time, it’s not an option. I have a commitment to my coaches, to the university and I’m going to keep that commitment.”

One school takes a chance

Pitman coach Brandon Harris’ fondest memory of Kaepernick happened while the San Jose State offensive coordinator was in the stands during a Friday night game. It was against Golden Valley High, and the quarterback got into some trouble. He had to scramble. He went toward the sidelines, where the options in front of him were shut down. There was only one thing that an athlete like him — who could score 30-plus points against the top basketball team in his division and carry an underdog baseball team all the way to the section title game — could do. He threw the ball across his body, some 40 yards for a touchdown.
“It was a lightning bolt,” Harris remembers. “It was the greatest throw from a high school kid I have seen in my career.”
But San Jose State never made a scholarship offer.
It wasn’t like the Spartans didn’t believe in his talent. They were worried about him taking the baseball path, like other D-I programs. But Nevada took a chance. Not before the coach asked Kaepernick about “100 times,” his father said, if he was fully committed to football.
And every time, Kaepernick said yes.

Working endlessly

Even after last season, Kaepernick is still not satisfied. He believes there’s a lot left to prove.
Sure, he set school records and got into an exclusive club for throwing and running so many yards. But he’ll look at last season and think he could have done better, considering his playing weight was at 205 pounds — rather light for a D-I quarterback.
That’s why he’s been working endlessly to bulk up. He didn’t play spring ball because he was recovering from an ankle injury he suffered in last season’s Humanitarian Bowl (even so, he still managed to set a bowl record with 370 passing yards in his team’s 42-35 loss). He spends most of his days in the weight room or out on the field.
He’s been setting personal bests in the bench press (275 pounds), squat (500 pounds) and hang clean and press (350 pounds).
Kaepernick now weighs 220 and stands at 6-foot-6. He said he could possibly add 5 to 10 pounds before the Notre Dame game.
“That’s the progression he has to take,” said Ault, the Nevada coach.
But for Kaepernick, that’s not the only reason. He’s been doubted all his life, people telling him he’ll be better living his life on a pitching mound.
“Nevada was the only one that wanted me for football,” he said. “In baseball, I think I could have gone anywhere in the country. From that perspective, it was a hard decision. But I love football and I think I made the right choice.”
So, what’s left to do?
“When it comes down to it,” he said, “it’s about going out and performing.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.