Colin Kaepernick has become an NFL pro football star. It wasn't that long ago that he was still mostly unknown. His run up to the starting QB role in the Super Bowl was fueled by astonishing performances including two record-breaking games.
Although he was drafted early in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, five other QBs were taken ahead of him: Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton. It's pretty clear now that Kaepernick has emerged as the best pick.
At the time many draft watchers were surprised that he was taken so early. He was predicted to be a middle-round pick, most likely as a backup. That the San Francisco 49ers traded up to get him was a surprise and questioned by many.
How is it that Colin Kaepernick, clearly an extraordinary talent, was so undervalued by NFL draft experts? After all, it's not as if his college career was undistinguished. For those who didn't follow him at Nevada, it may come as a surprise to learn that he broke nearly all the NCAA records for dual-threat QBs.
Kaepernick was the first QB to pass for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards. He scored 59 rushing TDs and passed for over 2,000 yards while rushing for over 1,000 in three consecutive seasons.
How did the experts miss him? Kaepernick simply didn't get the national coverage afforded to athletes in larger media markets and teams from AQ conferences. As a result, he flew largely under the radar until 2010, his senior year after he demolished Cal early in the season.
The days of anonymity are long gone. Kaepernick now has millions of fans. But most of them didn't have the opportunity to watch him in college. That is a real shame because if you didn't see him at the University of Nevada, you missed some amazing games.
I was lucky. I just so happened to see his first game and I knew at that point he was special. I decided thereafter to see every game I could. Over the next four years I saw all Nevada home games and many of the away games as well. I began tracking his stats and knew by his junior year that if he continued at the same pace, he would shatter records. I began writing about his performances in B/R in 2009 and declared he was "The Best College QB You Never Heard Of" in one of my early articles.
Of all the games I saw him play at Nevada, the series against Boise State was the most memorable. In his very first start in 2007, Kaepernick led the Wolf Pack on a furious second-half comeback to tie the Broncos with seconds left in regulation. After four overtimes, Boise State squeaked out a 69-67 win.
In 2008 and 2009, Kaepernick again engineered comeback, actually outscoring the Broncos in the second half only to fall just short of victory.
But in 2010, in his next-to-last regular-season college game, Kaepernick vowed he would win. Down by 17 at the half, Kaepernick put on one of the most remarkable performances I have ever seen. With 350 yards of offense in the second half alone, he passed and rushed for TDs and once again tied the game with seconds left in regulation.
Two missed Bronco field goals later, and Nevada won the game on a field goal. That game ended Boise State's undefeated season and any hope for a shot at the national championship.
Many consider the first game in 2007 and the last in 2010 to be among the most exciting games in college football history. For those of you who are new Kaepernick fans, you really should go find some video of those games. What you will see is the same astonishing play and will to win that was evident in his second year in the NFL. It was all there at Nevada, but most of you, including a lot of draft experts, missed it.
Colin Kaepernick is clearly one of the most exciting young QBs to come along in years. For those of us who were fortunate enough to watch him from the beginning of his college career, we're not surprised at what he accomplished this season.
In fact, folks in Reno will say, "you haven't seen anything yet." Even folks in Boise might start liking him now.