When 15th-ranked Nevada takes the field at AT&T Park on Sunday to face Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, it will be the last time Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick will lead his team.
The game will cap a dynamic collegiate career in Reno for Kaepernick, a graduate of Pitman High School in Turlock, and it will be witnessed in person by his family and friends who will make the 120-mile trek from the Central Valley.
Also sitting in the stands Sunday will be the man who has watched Kaepernick grow from a tall, gangly kid with a good arm to a young man on the verge of becoming his high school’s first ever NFL draft pick. Brandon Harris, Kaepernick’s offensive coordinator at Pitman and the school’s current head football coach, will cheer on his former student from the stands.
“He was such a great, hardworking athletic kid,” Harris said. “He’s really worked himself into what he is now.”
What Kaepernick has become at Nevada is a quarterback with a cannon arm who can also kill you with his legs. Something he was most definitely not in high school.
“That’s the only thing that surprises me about him,” Harris said. “That he’s doing so much running now. [At Pitman] he would only run when things broke down. We were always telling him to get out of bounds and not get hit because he was so skinny then.”
At Pitman, Kaepernick was a member of the school’s second-ever graduating class in 2006 and he led the Pride to back-to-back Central California Conference championships in 2004-05. He did that mostly with his arm, throwing for a combined 3,005 yards and 38 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions. But Kaepernick finished those two years with a combined -2 rushing yards. That changed at Nevada.
After redshirting in 2006, Kaepernick got his chance in 2007. Kaepernick stepped in as the starter five weeks into the season with an amazing debut against Boise State. In a 69-67 loss that came down to a missed two-point pass,
Kaepernick finished 11-of-26 for 243 yards and three TDs, but also racked up 185 yards rushing on 14 carries and two TDs.
He’s been on a roll ever since and comes into the Kraft Bowl with 9,906 yards passing and 81 TDs along with 4,090 yards rushing and 59 TDs for his career. He even has one career reception, a six-yard catch for a touchdown.
Kaepernick will go on to play in the Senior Bowl and then will wait and see if he’ll become the first player from his high school to be drafted in the NFL. While most have Kaepernick as a late-round selection that will play running back or receiver, Harris says no one should sell Kaepernick short on playing quarterback in the NFL.
“Most people said he couldn’t play the position in college,” Harris said, adding that most schools thought Kaepernick, who was drafted by the Cubs in 2009, would play professional baseball.
“But I would never bet against him making it as a quarterback,” Harris added. “Football is his passion.”