Teresa and Rick Kaepernick were blessed with a son, Kyle. They had two more boys, but both died of congenital heart defects just days after they were born. Doctors determined that if the Kaepernicks had another boy, the same fate could await.
Unexpectedly, they became pregnant again and, fortunately, had a daughter, Devon. To add a third child to their family, they knew the only safe option was adoption.
That infant wound up being Colin Kaepernick – the former University of Nevada quarterback whom the 49ers now will groom to be their quarterback of the future. Just as important to his family and those who know him well, Colin is a first-class person.
“It’s funny how life works out,” Teresa Kaepernick said from her family’s home in Turlock, Calif., where the family held a small get-together Friday that was flashed momentarily on the NFL Network after Colin was selected. “We adopted Colin because we lost two sons. You look back at that point in your life and you just can’t imagine how you’re going to even continue on. Now you look back at how things fall into place – I don’t know if it’s destiny or what it is.”
Colin was born on Nov. 3, 1987, in Milwaukee. His genetic mother, whom he has never met, was 19. His genetic father was out of the picture. His genetic mother had three criteria for picking Colin’s new family: siblings, financial stability and an athletic background. She picked Rick and Teresa, and shortly after 5-week-old Colin was living in New London, Wis., a city of about 6,700 residents located about 40 miles southwest of Green Bay.
Colin is half African American and half white, but race never was an issue to the Kaepernicks, even while living in the mostly Caucasian communities of New London and, later, Fond du Lac. When Colin was 4, Rick received a promotion and the family moved to Turlock, a racially diverse city of about 56,000 in central California, about an hour’s drive from 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara.
“We have been very blessed as to have never had any sort of problems with the racial differences,” Teresa said. “We’ve never had a problem with that. People have looked at us kind of funny. His little classmates would say, ‘That’s your mom?’ But other than that, no, that’s never been an issue.”
Not that there haven’t been some curious moments. In third grade, Colin drew a picture of his family. His parents and siblings were colored in yellow. Colin, knowing something was different but unable to peg exactly what it was, colored himself in brown. The assistant coach who recruited him to Nevada, Barry Sacks, did a double-take when he met Colin’s parents.
For as long as Teresa can remember, Colin has been athletically gifted. His biological parents both were 6-foot-2, and Colin had the good fortune of joining a sports-minded family. Kyle played football and hockey, and Devon played tennis and rode horses. Rick, Teresa and their immediate families led active lifestyles.
“He was always wanting to be right in there with the bigger kids,” Teresa said. “His older brother is 10 years older, and his sister is six years older, and he just always insisted on being right in there with them. The thing was, he wasn’t all that far behind a lot of older kids. He just always showed a lot of ability. It just continued to show as he got older and started participating in organized sports. He was always a step ahead.”
That was especially clear as a baseball player. At Pitman High School in Turlock, Colin was a two-time all-state pitcher who boasted a 94-mph fastball. He threw two no-hitters as a senior. Though he excelled at baseball, football was his love. He was projected to be selected at in the first six rounds of baseball’s 2006 draft, but when MLB’s Scouting Bureau asked, his message was clear: Don’t waste a draft pick.
“We were a football family,” Colin said. “Every Sunday, we’d watch the Packers. Just watching Brett Favre play every Sunday really makes the passion for the game grow on you. From there, it was something that, growing up, I really just felt I wanted to do and wanted to continue. There’s something about football that other sports don’t give you.”
Still, while Colin was convinced about football, seemingly no one else would listen. According to Teresa, the family sent out at least 80 highlight tapes to Division I football programs, but the only phone calls were from baseball coaches.
“The phone was ringing off the hook.” Teresa recalled. “I felt so bad for him.”
The interest from football coaches was tepid, at best. Recruiters and coaches worried that Kaepernick eventually would spurn football to play baseball. As a quarterback of a wing-T offense at Pitman, his stats certainly didn’t open many eyes, and he threw the ball like a pitcher rather than with the over-the-top motion of a quarterback. And though he was a gifted athlete, he had only about 165 pounds on his 6-4 frame.
“He looked like a little kid,” Teresa said while recalling a photo of Colin taken at the Elite 11 regional quarterbacks camp in Berkeley, Calif., before his senior season at Pitman. “Physically, he wasn’t real mature, but he had that arm and he could really wing it.”
One coach, however, was aware of his ability to wing it: Nevada’s Chris Ault, who gave Kaepernick his one and only scholarship offer.
After redshirting in 2006, Kaepernick made his first start at powerhouse Boise State on Oct. 14, 2007. He threw for 243 yards, rushed for 177 and produced five total touchdowns as Nevada lost, 69-67, in four overtimes.
And with that, a star was born.
He is the only player in NCAA history to top 10,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards in his career and the only quarterback to top 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons – a feat he accomplished three times.
NFL scouts love his arm and athleticism. And, just as important considering the fate of a franchise is at stake when a high draft pick is invested in a quarterback, teams love his intelligence and character.
“I’ve had people ask me, ‘What did you do with your kids? They never give you any trouble,’ ” Teresa said. “I don’t know! It wasn’t like the fear of God were in them or anything. I think when there’s an expectation there ... we took our kids to church, they were brought up with our values and morals. I don’t really know any more than that. Maybe we just got lucky.”
Colin’s uncle, Rand Kaepernick, is one of several family members who live in and around New London. He said Colin is the type of person who would do anything for anyone.
“One of the things that I really like most about him is how he treats everybody else,” said Rand, who didn’t miss any Nevada games while Colin was there, whether it was watching in person or hunched over a computer at midnight. “After ballgames, there will be swarms of people wanting autographs and things like that, and he stays right there and he signs them all and he takes pictures and puts his arms around people. He’s polite and says, ‘Thank you,’ to them for wanting his autograph. It’s kind of a special thing.”
Colin has no memories of Wisconsin as a little boy but has plenty of fond ones from his yearly visits back home. There have been long nights of pool and table tennis in Rand’s basement and games of two-on-two or three-on-three basketball with friends and family.
“Our whole family’s very competitive. No one likes to lose so typically it turns into a lot of rematches,” Colin said with a laugh.
Football, however, is rarely part of the equation. Those weeklong trips to Wisconsin each summer are a time to get away from it all.
“If you sat in the airport or something and talked to him for an hour and a half, you’d never know that he played football because he wouldn’t bring it up,” Rand said. “He’s said that one of the things he likes about coming home is that he’s just Colin. He’s not Colin the football player or Colin the superstar. He’s just Colin. He likes that because everyone treats him the way they treat everyone else.”
That’s music to scouts’ ears. One of the toughest things to project is how untold riches will impact a person. Big egos rarely make good teammates. Kaepernick, however, is the type of grounded person franchises are built around.
It’s that combination of athleticism and intangibles that put him in position to be selected with the No. 36 overall pick in the draft.
Going pro will be the latest step in a life-changing, indescribable, unlikely journey for a player who has been blessed with his family and a family that has been blessed with the second son they couldn’t have.
“I think it’s something where God has really led me to where I’m at today,” Colin said. “He put me in a position to be successful throughout my life.”
This story appeared originally on www.foxsportswisconsin.com