Only Nevada gave this quarterback a scholarship to play college football. Now he leaves school as the only player in NCAA history to rush for more than 4,000 yards and throw for more than 10,000 yards.
Like many of the 2011 NFL Draft hopefuls, Colin Kaepernick’s story will move you.
Nothing’s ever been easy in the life of the Nevada quarterback. So when the demands of being a top prospect seem daunting, it doesn’t faze him, not when he’s been through tougher circumstances.
For one, Kaepernick was adopted at birth when his then 19-year-old mother decided to give him a better life. He never developed meaningful relationships with his biological parents, but has recently begun communicating with his mother.
Through early hardships, Kaepernick used athletics as an outlet. He was a three-sport athlete at Pittman High School in Turlock, Calif., and was even selected in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago Cubs.
It wasn’t his dream to be a professional pitcher however. Kaepernick wanted to play football. But only one team offered the lanky signal caller a scholarship and it came from Nevada.
It’s funny how that worked out.
After four seasons in Reno, Kaepernick leaves campus as the only player in NCAA history with more than 4,000 rushing yards and 10,000 passing yards totaled in a collegiate career.
And now after one school gave him an opportunity, it seems like every NFL teams wants to know more about the 6-foot-5, 233-pound quarterback who can ran a 4.53, 40-yard dash.
Kaepernick has been a busy man in the leading days to the NFL Draft. He’s had several reported workouts for various NFL teams, including one with the 49ers.
And just like Nevada took a chance on the kid from Turlock, it will only take one pro team to see the same value.
Besides being a duel-threat quarterback, who can throw the football 95-mph like a top-flight Major League pitcher, Kaepernick considers himself to be a well-rounded player.
“I bring leadership, confidence, intelligence as well as my physical abilities as my arm strength and mobility,” he said. “I think there are a lot of things that I can do to help an NFL team out.”
Kaepernick helped the Wolf Pack enter the national conversation in 2010. He was named Co-WAC Player of the Year, led his team to an upset win over then undefeated Boise State and a school-best 13-1 record to finish the season.
Kaepernick’s body of work speaks to his overall success in the WAC conference.
In 51 career collegiate games, Kaepernick completed 740-of-1,271 pass attempts with 82 touchdowns and 24 touchdowns. And for his 600 carries, he rushed for 4,112 yards and 59 touchdowns too.
The rushing ability allows Kaepernick to make plays many quarterbacks wouldn’t dare try.
“I have that mobility where I may make something bigger happen then throwing the ball away,” he explained.
But all the rushing success won’t necessarily translate to the next level.
That’s why Kaepernick has been focused on showing his all-around quarterback fundamentals. Like many of the top signal callers in this year’s draft, Kaepernick comes from a version of the spread attack known as the “pistol” offense.
Kaepernick played out of a shortened shotgun formation, but considers himself to be a true pocket passer who is able to make plays on the run. Kaepernick believes the progressions and protections in the pistol offense are similar to what is used in the NFL.
Nevada’s offense allowed its athletic quarterback to make plays on the fly, but also enabled him to develop as a thrower. It was in Kaepernick’s junior season that he began to focus on the passing aspect of his position.
“I really started to develop the idea of throwing the ball so our receivers can make plays after they catch it,” he explained. “If I give them an easier ball to catch, they can catch it, get down field and make some plays.”
Kaepernick demonstrated his improved timing at the Senior Bowl where he quickly became one of the most talked-about prospects. Throughout the week, he could be seen rifling passes into tight windows and getting around the perimeter of the defense if that’s what the downfield coverage dictated.
“That week was good for me,” said Kaepernick, who soaked up every opportunity to learn a NFL playbook while working with a pro coaching staff. “I learned how their practice runs and how quickly they expect you to pick things up. For me it was a great experience and a great opportunity, working with some great coaches.”
It also gave him much more confidence entering the draft.
But Kaepernick’s long frame and baseball background translates to a longer throwing motion than most quarterback prospects. That’s why he’s working on quickening his release for the NFL, where cornerbacks can break on the ball in the blink of an eye.
And while some say his unique physical skills and background in the pistol offense lends itself to being considered as a “project” quarterback, Kaepernick respectfully disagrees.
“I think the Senior Bowl week I showed how quickly I can pick up on an NFL offense, drop-back, read coverage,” he said.
Kaepernick’s already proven to be a key discovery for one football program, now it’s a matter of finding out if the trend continues in the NFL.
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