While the media attention is centering around head coaches Jim and John Harbaugh facing one another in the Super Bowl, there’s another story that should be getting more attention. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick went from backup to starting quarterback and now has the chance to become a Super Bowl winner. The more interesting storyline is Kaepernick’s decision to play football over baseball and basketball, which he also excelled at.
The 49ers moved up in the 2011 NFL Draft to select Kaepernick with the 36th overall pick. San Francisco traded away its 45th, 108th and 141st picks to the Denver Broncos for the second round pick. Five quarterbacks were selected ahead of Kaepernick, but had it not been for the University of Nevada, Colin might not have even been in the NFL Draft.
Kaepernick was a three sport athlete at John H. Pitman High School. The sport that Colin most excelled at was baseball. Kaepernick was a two time All State baseball player and considered a top pitching prospect in the state of California.
As a senior, Kaepernick put together a 9-2 record in 13 games. Kapernick went the distance in nine of the games and finished the season with three shutouts, including two no-hitters. Over 83 innings, Kaepernick threw 97 strikeouts, while only walking 39 batters and allowing 42 hits. Against 342 batters, Colin only allowed one home run. Kaepernick had a fastball that is said to have reached the 90-92 mile per hour range, which blew past high school batters. This helped Kaepernick post an ERA of 1.27 over his senior season. As a junior, Kaepernick went 6-4 with a 1.54 ERA and 82 strikeouts over 63.2 innings pitched.
Kaepernick was also successful as a first baseman and hitter. During his senior season, Kaepernick had a .313 batting average and .407 on-base percentage. Kaepernick had 17 RBI, 24 runs scored and 30 hits. Surprisingly, Colin only had two stolen bases, proving his speed may have come during his college days at the University of Nevada.
Kaepernick’s statistics were good enough to get him drafted as a pitcher in the 2009 MLB Draft. The Chicago Cubs took Kaepernick in the 43rd round of the draft, after scout Sam Hughes watched him play football at Nevada. Kaepernick had the opportunity to throw for the Cubs in the summer and still retain his collegiate football eligibility, but he opted instead to spend the summer working with his wide receivers. Coincidentally enough, Hughes’ father Gary was responsible for the New York Yankees selecting John Elway in the MLB Draft.
For Kaepernick, the decision to play football has ended up being a rewarding one. In 2011, Colin finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting. While at Nevada, Kaepernick gained national attention as a dual threat quarterback. In his college career, he threw for 10,098 yards and 82 touchdowns. Kaepernick also rushed for 4112 yards and 59 touchdowns. In his last three seasons, Kaepernick had at least 1000 rushing yards each year. This is surprising considering that while in high school, Kaepernick had less than 100 rushing yards in his junior and senior season combined.
Ultimately, Kaepernick’s story is one of risk and chances. A Chicago Cubs team drafted Kaepernick without ever watching him play baseball in person. The Nevada football team offered Colin a scholarship after only watching him play basketball. The 49ers moved up in the draft to take Kaepernick as a backup quarterback as an insurance policy to Alex Smith. For Nevada and the 49ers the risk paid off. For the Cubs, the pick didn’t turn out so well, but he was only a 43rd round pick after all.