Colin Kaepernick’s full introduction to America happened to occur on a Super Bowl stage, where the probing light reaches all corners and crevices, and so you find out things like this:
The 49ers’ young quarterback got a small pet tortoise as a boy and now Sammy weighs 115 pounds.
He is dating an aspiring model who goes by the name J.Marie. (Colin is, not Sammy).
His favorite tattoo of the many covering both arms is one that reads ‘My Gift Is My Curse’ because being an NFL quarterback makes it tougher to “just walk around as a normal guy.”
He reads the Bible every day and watches no sports on TV.
He calls Red Robin his “favorite haunt,” thrilling the restaurant chain so much it has offered Kaepernick free food for life if he beats the Ravens on Sunday.
And this, one of those too-good-to-be-true things: In fourth grade Colin wrote himself a letter predicting he would grow up to be 6-4 “and then go to the pros and play for the Niners or Packers even if they aren’t good then.”
Well, Kaepernick is 6-4, he has the Niners in a Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years, and he is poised to become something he dared not predict in that letter to himself: One of the biggest sports stars in the country.
A true story
Winning a Super Bowl isn’t an automatic bridge there for every quarterback, but it can be for Kaepernick because his story is too good.
He was a mixed-race baby given up by an unwed teen mom who couldn’t handle the responsibility, and then was adopted at six weeks old by a white Wisconsin couple.
The tattoos alone are such an aberration for a QB that one major website columnist this season, apparently trying very hard to play the Out Of Touch Middle-Aged White Guy, lambasted Kaepernick as setting a bad example.
The reality is, in an increasingly diverse America, with race lines blurred and labels tossed out, a half-white, half-black, tatted-up QB seems closer to who we are than most other guys.
I’m not sure winning on Sunday will make Kaepernick the face of the NFL, but it should make him one of the faces the NFL wants out front if the idea is to appeal to a younger, hipper demographic.
Kaepernick, 25, wears his Niners cap with a flat bill, hip-hop style. He has the look of someone you could drop into a Jay-Z video, a mosh pit or a party at Justin Timberlake’s house and he’d fit right in.
He could be a star
He is a dull interview, a bad quote, but what he does on a football field struts and preens. His tattooed arm is a cannon. His legs set a QB-record with 181 yards rushing in his first playoff game. He’ll be modest in his answers, and yet he bends to kiss his flexed biceps after touchdowns. Somebody called that “Kaepernicking.” Now Colin has moved to trademark the phrase.
He could be a flaring, fleeting phenom, a Tim Tebow or Jeremy Lin who is the flavor of the month but then melts and disappears.
Or he could become a sort of counter-culture, Gen X superstar, a new model for the dual-threat, “read option” quarterback of the future.
The earliest evidence suggests the latter.
Kaepernick started at midseason only because Alex Smith had a concussion, but coach Jim Harbaugh kept him in even after Smith got healthy. Harbaugh became the bold genius for that decision only because Kaepernick has succeeded in a way that stirs the imagination.