INDIANAPOLIS – At pick No. 36 in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers found themselves a starting quarterback.
Kaepernick waited in the wings as a rookie and claimed the team’s starting job midway through the 2012 season. He made his 10th start at the Super Bowl and posted the best single-game rushing performance in NFL history in his first postseason start.
How did all that happen? First, Kaepernick impressed at the 2011 Scouting Combine.
The 6-foot-5, 233-pound passer ran a 4.53-second, 40-yard dash and posted 32.5 inches in the vertical jump and 115 inches in the broad jump.
Moreover, Kaepernick wowed the 49ers coaching staff with his on-field and off the field behavior.
Kaepernick threw 10 touchdown passes in the 2012 regular season and four more in the postseason. He finished the postseason with a 100.9 quarterback rating, a solid improvement from his 81.3 passer rating in the regular season.
The production was quite impressive for a first-year starter, something not even the 49ers could have predicted in 2011.
“Well, it's a lot easier to sit up here after a young man's had success and say, yes, you pictured that,” General Manager Trent Baalke admitted at the combine. “But there's a lot of unknowns when you draft anybody.”
With Kaepernick, the 49ers felt like the young passer would be adaptable and hard-working throughout his NFL career.
It made him that much more attractive two drafts ago.
“You look at skills sets, you look at the kid as an individual, you look at the intangibles that they bring to the table and you try to see if they fit,” Baalke continued. “If they fit what you're looking for in that particular player, in that particular position. And he's a young man who brought an awful lot to the table as you know.
“He came from an offense that's not a, quote, pro-style offense. And just a guy who our coaching staff really believed in, that we believed in from a personnel standpoint and it was just letting him develop and giving him an opportunity.”
Baalke credited the coaching staff, too.
“Coach Harbaugh has done an outstanding job with him as has (quarterbacks coach) Geep Chryst and (offensive coordinator) Greg Roman and he's still learning, still developing.”
Kaepernick’s still working, too.
Just a week after the Super Bowl, Kaepernick started working out at a gym in Atlanta where he trained for the NFL Combine. He’s also invited teammates to join in.
Harbaugh’s not surprised to hear about the early offseason workouts. After all, work ethic was one of the reasons the 49ers coach chose Kaepernick to be his first ever offensive draft pick.
“I think it's one of his assets, one of the things that makes him who he is,” Harbaugh said. “It's one of the things that's made him who he is. He's got great attitude. He has a great work ethic.
“People who have a great attitude and a great work ethic, there are very few circumstances or situations that can keep you from being good.”
Kaepernick’s 2011 combine was good.His first 10 starts in the NFL were even better.
Harbaugh’s favorite thing about coming to the combine is finding a player to “champion.”
He did that in 2011 with Kaepernick. Now, it’s all about who catches Harbaugh’s eye this time around.
“To me that’s the exciting thing, finding a guy to champion, a guy you can really learn all you can about and watch him go through the process,” Harbaugh said.