In the summer of 2005, Colin Kaepernick was just a tall, skinny kid from Turlock, California looking to earn an FBS (then Div. 1-A) scholarship.
After hitting the local camp circuit to see how he stacked up against the competition, he decided it was time to shoot big.
Kaepernick set his sights on the Las Vegas Elite 11 quarterback camp.
It was there,he was told,that the best signal callers in the country would congregate to compete. The roll call was impressive: Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman, Jake Locker, and Jevan Snead, just to name a few.
All of the camp attendees had double-digit scholarship offers. Kaepernick had none. Stafford tipped the scales at 210 pounds. Kaepernick weighed 175 soaking wet.
Undeterred, the kid from Turlock went out and showed his stuff. The result? Perhaps Greg Biggins (ESPN West Coast Recruiting) summed it up best:
“He attended the final Elite 11 tryout in Las Vegas, a camp that was loaded with Div. 1 prospects and was as impressive as anyone in attendance not named Matthew Stafford. Kaepernick has the strongest arm in the West region, has good mobility and a quick release. He was a player we felt should have been recruited by schools all over the Western region."
Surprisingly, only one offer came in: The University of Nevada gave him an opportunity.
Fast forward to 2008.
In his sophomore year for the Wolf Pack, that skinny kid from Turlock was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year. The last sophomore to accomplish that feat was a guy named Marshall Faulk.
If you’re looking for an underdog story to root for this fall, Colin Kaepernick is your man.
As you’ll see from our interview, the more you get to know this promising young student-athlete, the more there is to like.
Todd DeVries (CollegeFootballGeek.com): Colin, did you have a childhood football hero? Do you model your game after anyone in particular?
Colin Kaepernick: My childhood hero would have to be Brett Favre. I love the way he plays the game. I try to model my game after Vince Young, but at the same time I take bits and pieces from every quarterback I see play to try to be the best at every aspect of the position.
TD: You were an excellent baseball prospect in high school. Which schools offered you a baseball scholarship? Why did you opt for football over baseball?
CK: Fresno, BYU, and UC-Davis offered me scholarships. I had a lot of schools calling the house. Some pretty big names like Duke, Tennessee, Michigan, etc. would call on a regular basis. Notre Dame at one point had set up a visit for me, but that didn’t work out at the last minute.
I just really love football and always have. It’s so competitive and physical. A lot of people thought I was making a big mistake choosing football, but I had the support of my family, and I believed in myself and my abilities. My quarterbacks tutor, Roger Theder, coached at Cal and in the NFL, and would tell me I should quit baseball and focus on football. Why wouldn’t I believe someone with those credentials?
TD: Is it true that you could throw a 94 mph fastball?
TD: Why do you think you only had one Division-1 football scholarship offer? Did it have anything to do with you being a “late bloomer?" Or perhaps the run-heavy, Wing-T offense your high school ran wasn’t conducive to showcasing your talents?
CK: Haha. I know the “string bean” comparison well. I was 6-4, 175 at the Nike camp before my senior season. I guess for me, I think that baseball had to have played into it. I had some really good camps before my junior and senior years. A lot of coaches would talk to me in one-on-one settings and tell me they really liked me and thought I could make an impact in their program.
But then it seemed like they just wouldn’t make me an offer. It was definitely a frustrating experience at the time. Maybe they were just worried that after they offered me [a scholarship] I would enter the MLB draft. I told everyone that I wouldn’t do that. Coach Ault and Coach Sacks, who was my recruiter, took my word for it.
TD: It’s been reported that one of the schools you were hoping to get a football scholarship offer from was Oregon State. Is this accurate? Did you have any other favorites? There have to be some coaches out there who are wishing they gave you a closer look.
CK: Well, honestly, at that time I was really just hoping that anyone would give me a shot. But I would say that Oregon State was pretty high up on my list at that time. Coach Riley came to one of my high school games. Nevada was actually always right at the top in regards to my favorites. I was interested in Stanford since I had a good junior camp there, and it was close to home, and the academics and all. I had a lot of contact with Coach Hawkins at Boise and Coach Tomey at San Jose as well.
I’m just so blessed that things worked out with Nevada the way they did though. The Wolf Pack fans have been great to me. It’s just been a perfect fit and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
TD: Who did you compete against in the Elite 11 camp you attended?
CK: I went to two Elite 11 camps—one at Cal and one in Las Vegas. I had a really good camp at Cal and decided to give Las Vegas a try because I wanted to throw against the best, and I was told they would all be there. It’s a pretty amazing list now that I think about it. The Cal camp had Cody Hawkins, Mike Coughlin, Danny Sullivan, Nathan Costa, and others.
Then at Las Vegas there were a lot of real big names and I remember the group I was throwing in had Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman in it. Also some big name college guys like Jake Locker, Jevan Snead, and Kevin Riley. I think I was like the only guy in the group who didn’t have 10 offers. I didn’t even have one offer!
TD: How tall are you now? What do you foresee your ideal playing weight to be in 2009?
CK: (I'm) 6-6, and in 2009 I think ideally I will weigh 225. It’s realistic, but if I’m 220, that’s fine. I’m just focused on getting stronger and faster.
TD: How’s the ankle?
CK: 100 percent.
TD: How did the other QBs look this spring? Was a No. 2 established?
CK: They looked really good. They both ran the offense well in spring camp, and I learned a lot by getting a chance to step back and watch those guys. I think we all benefited from it actually.
TD: Should we expect another 1,000 yard rushing season from you in 2009? Or do you expect to stay in the pocket more?
CK: I just want to go out there and do my best. I think Coach Ault and Coach Klenakis have some really good new stuff going into the playbook this off season. I’m really excited to run it in the fall. I’m comfortable with staying in the pocket. I never ran the ball very much in high school. My job is to move the football and get first downs and touchdowns. If it’s rushing or passing, I’m comfortable with both—whatever it takes to win football games.
TD: Who, along with Chris Wellington, do you expect to step up in the absence of WRs Marko Mitchell and Mike McCoy?
CK: We have a whole bunch of guys who I expect to step up. I’m real excited about this group. Marko and Mike had done it for awhile and I’ll miss those guys. But at the same time I think we’ve got some new guys who are ready to show what they’ve got.
I think our tight end, Virgil Green, will have a big year. Brandon Wimberly had a very good spring. He’s pretty big and physical. He’s always talking trash and begging for the ball. I like that. Veterans like Art King and Dwayne Sanders figure to step up. Some of the new guys and younger guys looked real good in camp, too. You just never know who is going to step up and stand out on Saturdays.
TD: With Luke Lippincott getting a sixth year of eligibility, you appear to be loaded at the running back position. How do you see the carries shaking out between Vai Taua, Brandon Fragger and Luke Lippincott?
CK: It’s a great problem to have. Running back is a tough position, and it’s great that we have the kind of depth we do. I’m not really sure how the carries will go. They are all the kind of guys who could start for just about anyone in the country. And we’ve got some good young guys, too.
TD: Do you have aspirations to play in the NFL? If so, what areas do you feel you need to improve to compete at that elite level?
CK: Absolutely I would love to get drafted and play in the NFL. It’s always been a dream of mine. I know that I have to work hard at all aspects of my game, all of the time, to prepare for the NFL. The minute you stop working hard, someone else who is working hard is catching or passing you. I think if I had to pick one specific thing to improve on this year it would be my accuracy.
TD: Who’s the best player you’ve ever faced (offense or defense)?
CK: Best players I’ve played against...on offense it would be Jeremy Maclin. We had no answer for him and his speed. He’s a big play waiting to happen. On defense it would have to be (Sean) Weatherspoon, the linebacker from Missouri. He was an animal on the field and I think the only person to put me on a hit highlight reel. It was the season wrap-up highlight by ESPN, I think. I thought he broke my jaw on that play.
TD: I understand you’re a pretty good student. Are you still majoring in business?
CK: Yes, I am still in business and actually don’t have that far to go towards my degree. Academics have always been important. I think a lot of people lose sight of the fact that we are student-athletes. The student part comes first, and the athlete part come second.
TD: What music would we find on your iPod?
CK: Mainly rap music, but I do listen to pretty much any style or anyone if I like their songs. Of course Kanye West and Lil Wayne have been the best by far recently.
TD: With your propensity to rack up big statistics, you’ve become a bit of a cult hero in college fantasy football circles. Do you play any fantasy games?
CK: Wow. A cult hero? I guess I didn’t realize that many people were watching what I do each week. I’ll try real hard not to let them down this season. It takes a lot of time to do fantasy leagues properly, so I don’t do that right now. My family follows it closely though and I hear from time to time about it.
TD: You open the season in South Bend against the Fighting Irish. Tell us what a win over Notre Dame would mean to the Nevada football program.
CK: I think it would really mean a lot. We are trying to have a big season and get a WAC championship and play in a big bowl game. So we need to take care of business every weekend. One game at a time. And Notre Dame is game number one. So it’s huge. It would really set us on the right path to win that first game. Also, we don’t get to play on NBC on Saturday afternoon too often.
Notre Dame has so much history and tradition and there will be so many people watching the game. I think it’s really important to our team to play a great game, get the W, and make the city of Reno proud to support us, and proud that we represent them and the state of Nevada.
TD: Thanks for your time, Colin. We wish you all the best in 2009.
CK: Thank you and good luck to you and all your readers in fantasy football this year.
Todd DeVries is founder of CollegeFootballGeek.com, your resource for all things college fantasy football.