RENO, Nev. — Colin Kaepernick says he doesn’t think much about the NFL and the real possibility of becoming a millionaire.
He’d rather focus on the now.
That’s because what he does in the coming months for the University of Nevada football team in Reno will help shape his future. He’s determined to lead his Wolf Pack to a Western Athletic Conference title and, perhaps, break into a Bowl Championship Series game. For the latter goal, he’s also not talking too much about, because — again — he’s committed to his everyday activities first, like attending practice and securing a degree in business management.
This week was the start of fall camp, where he and his teammates are required to practice for a good chunk of the day.
All of this, he knows, will lead to the big picture: the NFL. If he reaches that point, the 2006 Pitman High graduate would be the second athlete from Turlock to be selected in a short span of three years. Former Turlock High and Fresno State standout quarterback Tom Brandstater was an NFL Draft pick a year ago and is now fighting for a spot on the Indianapolis Colts roster.
At this year’s WAC media days in Salt Lake City, Utah, Kaepernick was asked by reporters why he didn’t hire an agent and turn pro at the end of his junior season in 2009, one that concluded with back-to-back seasons of 2,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards (numbers that recently helped him earn a display in the College Football Hall of Fame, along with fellow 1,000-yard rushers Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott for becoming the first trio of teammates in NCAA history to rush for that amount in the same year). His answer was simple yet honest.
“I didn’t think I was ready for it,” he said.
This time around, the NFL has been on his mind. His parents, Rick and Teresa, are taking phone calls from about 40 agents, all of them wanting to represent Colin in next year’s NFL Draft. His parents will eventually cut down the number to three after the college football season is over. It’s only then that Colin will sit down with the top choices and consider his future.
Even with agents calling, he didn’t bother taking out an insurance policy in case he gets hurt during the upcoming season. “I’m not too worried about that,” the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder told reporters at the WAC media days. Before then, Colin was asked inside his Reno home if he ever thinks about the NFL. This was during the middle of his meal after his morning workout. He put down his fork, chewed his food and said, “Typically, no. The only time I think about it is when it’s brought up. I think that will take care of itself — if I do well.”
Still, the questions come.
Getting top-notch tutoring
In early July, Colin and his father traveled to Louisiana, where he was scheduled to throw a football around in front of the Manning family at the 15th annual Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State in Thibodaux. It’s a lineage that included Peyton and Eli Manning, two Super Bowl MVPs, and their father, Archie, who had a long career in the NFL. Colin was also there to work.
He and the top college quarterbacks in the country were required to help mentor some 1,000 high school athletes — including QBs, wide receivers, running backs and tight ends — before getting some personal time and two workouts with Peyton, Eli and Archie.
With pro scouts and media there, Colin stood out.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen announced via Twitter that Colin had “the wow factor with arm strength.” And the comment came after working out with a number of QBs who have potential to win the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious award at their level. That’s good news for Colin, who has been stereotyped as a running quarterback — and not a quarterback who can run.
It’s the type of criticism that former college QBs like Michael Vick and Vince Young got before they turned pro.
Trent Dilfer, who won the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and is now an NFL analyst for ESPN, calls Colin a “project,” according to a story in The Reno Gazette-Journal. “The NFL is not a developmental league. It should be. If I was a coach, I would take a Colin Kaepernick every year.”
“He’s an exciting college quarterback and such a versatile athlete,” he continued before fulfilling a speaking engagement in Carson City, Nev. “My impression is he is like a lot of college quarterbacks we evaluate these days. Because of the system, he’s hard to judge as an NFL player. From a skill-set standpoint I think he has all the tools, but his instincts and mechanics probably need to be refined.
“That doesn’t mean he can’t do it.”
Brushes with fame
Though he’s not losing sleep over it, the thought of playing professionally has crossed his mind throughout his life. And he’s not referring to baseball, though a year ago he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
He wants to do it in football.
At Pitman High, Colin was also a basketball star. He was a 6-foot-5 wingman who was capable of leading the Pride to wins. He proved that much in his final high school game. In the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoff opener against top-ranked Oak Ridge High in El Dorado Hills, Colin stood out. And the No. 16 Pride didn’t mind, since they needed someone to challenge the opponent’s best player: Ryan Anderson, who scored 50 points, went on to play for Cal and was selected in the first-round of the 2008 NBA Draft.
That night, Colin scored 31 points. But that wasn’t what he remembered most; it was the fact that he knew he could compete at the level of an eventual pro. And he has had this sort of realization a few times during his college football career. He’s been on the same field as Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers), Jimmy Clausen (Carolina Panthers) and Kyle Wilson (New York Jets), who all now have big-money pro contracts after having successful college careers.
Colin recently thought about this, as he was leaving his internship at Silver and Blue Outfitters at the Meadowood Mall in Reno for the last time this summer. He brought a smile to his face and saw the big picture.
“It lets me know I’m close,” Colin said.
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