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Kaepernick Stays Calm in Spotlight

Posted Jan 16, 2013

Colin Kaepernick’s celebrity is growing with every day, but the same can’t be said for his ego.

The humble, hard-working quarterback has stepped into the spotlight this season since taking over as the 49ers quarterback in Week 11. Kaepernick’s rise to stardom was cemented this week, when the latest issue of Sports Illustrated hit newsstands with a big photo of him gracing the cover.

A night before the magazine came out, Kaepernick received the news from his agent.

“It was something that I didn’t expect,” Kaepernick said. “It kind of surprised me, but it’s a great honor.”

And as for the cutout of Jim Harbaugh’s head on the cover?

“That’s Coach Harbaugh’s game face,” Kaepernick said.

In a span of just two months, Kaepernick has gone from understudy backup to starting signal-caller of a Super Bowl favorite. All the while, Kaepernick hasn’t changed his study and work habits, which are well-known around 49ers headquarters.

In fact, tight end Delanie Walker still didn’t know Kaepernick was on the cover until reporters told him on Wednesday afternoon.

“I didn’t know anything about that,” Walker said. “Kap is still the same. Quiet guy just trying to run the team and take us where we need to get to and that’s the Super Bowl. He hasn’t changed.”

Kaepernick has also become a force on social media. 49ers Faithful around the world have been posting their best “Kaepernicking” poses, in which they kiss their biceps like the quarterback does after scoring touchdowns. He’s seen and retweeted dozens of Kaepernicking poses since the movement started online earlier this season, but there’s one in particular that has caught his eye.

“I saw a girl Kaepernicking while she was riding a horse,” he said.

The poise of the young leader in the limelight isn’t just noticed by his teammates, but Kaepernick’s coaches, too. Harbaugh, who lost his only Conference Championship game as a player with the Colts after the 1995 season, said Kaepernick is staying the course.

“Colin does a great job of continuing in his humility,” Harbaugh said.

The 49ers coach said the rest of his players have adopted the same mentality. Despite returning to the NFC Championship game for the second straight year and being picked by many pundits nationwide to win the game, San Francisco’s locker room isn't buying into the hype.

“We feel good about what we’ve accomplished, but that doesn’t change what we need to accomplish,” Harbaugh said.

Kaepernick’s 181 rushing yards in last week’s 45-31 win against Green Bay were the most ever by a quarterback in any game in NFL history. Fifty-six of those yards came with his showstopping touchdown run in the second half, when he pulled off a great ball fake on read option play to LaMichael James before sprinting to the end zone untouched.

Walker said quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are still the standard when it comes to the NFL, but that other players like Kaepernick could reshape the future of the league. The tight end also said that the 49ers have been well-aware of Kaepernick’s speed since his college days at Nevada, but now, “he’s just showing everybody out there in TV land that he can do it.”

“The league is going to evolve into this read option pretty soon,” Walker added. “I think everybody that’s been doing that has had the best offense so far, it’s been the most explosive in this league. It’s going to set a new standard.”

Perhaps the biggest key of the integration of the zone read scheme to coordinator Greg Roman’s offense has been the agile and athletic offensive line.

Walker and Vernon Davis have also been lauded for their ability to block in the run game, while Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. have also shown a knack for making big blocks down field. Ginn had a particular noteworthy block during Kaepernick’s long touchdown run, occupying his man more than 20 yards down field to free up the mobile quarterback.

“It’s fun,” Walker said of the offense. “It can give you advantages and opens up big plays down the field when you’ve got a quarterback that can run or hand it off and he can throw the deep pass. It gives you options.”

Through the air, Kaepernick’s favorite target has undoubtedly been Crabtree. The two have combined for three, two-touchdown games in the last four contests, including last week’s victory.

“He’s winning,” Kaepernick said. “That’s what it comes down to. You’re going to get open as a receiver or you’re not and he’s been getting open. … He’s a complete receiver, he knows what he’s doing out there, he knows how to work his routes.”

Perhaps forgotten with Kaepernick’s impressive physical displays are his preparation habits. 49ers defensive captain Patrick Willis said he doesn’t like to be outworked, but that Kaepernick makes it tough on him by being the first one on the practice fields every morning.

Those habits have also carried over to the classroom, as Kaepernick has been called “savant-like” in his ability to handle postseason gameplans.

“It’s just something you have to do in this playoff situation,” Kaepernick said. “You get one shot so you have to be on top of everything.”

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