Local Boy Makes Good
Colin Kaepernick might not have been born in Turlock, but you wouldn’t know it from a walk through the Stanislaus County city’s busy downtown
In the lead up to the Super Bowl, almost every window along Main Street bears signs wishing the 49ers quarterback good luck in the upcoming big game. Here in the heart of Turlock, there seems to be more riding on the Super Bowl than just a year of bragging rights for the Niners. This trip to the big game promised to transform Colin, in only his second year with the San Francisco team, from a hometown hero to a national legend.
As the dust of the Super Bowl clears and teams and fans start to prepare for next season’s lineups, it’s already become clear that this game will be remembered as the moment when Colin first displayed his exceptional leadership capabilities on the big stage.
Colin Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1987, the adopted son of Rick and Teresa Kaepernick and the sibling of their son Kyle and daughter Devon. He was only three years old when his family and friends started to see the potential that would take him all the way to the professional sports world. When Colin and the Kaepernicks settled in Turlock in 1991, Kyle’s pals had already dubbed Colin “Bo”—for the ubiquitous Bo Jackson—because he was already showing such aptitude for a range of sports.
While at Turlock’s Pitman High School, Colin kept on the heat, balancing his athletics—he played the starring role in three sports: basketball, baseball and, of course, football—with strong academics. Pitman High School’s Athletic Trainer Markus Turner recalled that Colin was an exceptionally hard working student. “He took his academics very seriously. He was always on time, always sitting in the front of the class. All the teachers and coaches on campus remember him as a great student.” In fact, Colin graduated with an incredible 4.3 GPA and a spate of college offers for his academics alongside his bouquet of athletic scholarships.
Turner said that he knew Colin from when Kaepernick started at Pitman in 2002—as part of the first class to matriculate at the new high school—and Colin was always the quintessential athlete. “I define a true athlete as someone who can cross over to a different sport and still do well,” recalled Turner. “That’s how Colin was. He started on every team he played on and he was always a focal point.” On the basketball court, Colin was consistently one of the top scorers, on the baseball field his pitches burned over the plate at a phenomenal 94-95 mph and, well, then there was football.
He took our team to two league championships in his first years playing as a varsity quarterback,” said Turner. Even though the Pitman team was geared to a running style, Colin shone and consistently led the team to victory on the field. And when he was asked to throw the ball? “Well,” said Turner. “He was obviously phenomenal.”
Colin went from Pitman to college at the University of Nevada, where he dropped his multi-sport pursuit in favor of the pigskin. At Nevada, Kaepernick was twice named the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, as well as raking in the designation of MVP of the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl. And in 2011, he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the NFL Draft and took a role as backup to starting QB Alex Smith.
In 2012, in only his second season with the Niners, Colin got the chance of a lifetime when Smith was benched for a concussion. Kaepernick successfully filled in and then was quickly named the full-time starting QB for the team as it progressed through the playoffs and eventually made the Super Bowl for the first time in almost two decades.
Back in his hometown of Turlock, Colin’s precipitous rise can be seen everywhere. From those posters in the window of seemingly every local business in town; to the growing cadre of Colin’s friends, neighbors, former classmates and brand new fans who are glued to their sets watching Colin’s every unique throw; to the starry eyed child athletes who toss footballs back and forth on the grass of Donnelly Park and take turns parroting Kaepernick’s iconic bicep-kissing celebration. The entire city has Kaepernick fever.
Downtown at Main St. Footer’s, every customer who walks in seems to be ordering up the Kaep Dog, a pile of chili, jalapenos, coleslaw and special sauce on top of the shop’s foot long hot dog. “[Owner] Glenn Newsum really wanted to do something to honor Colin,” said Main St. Footer’s Molly Amant. So Amant and the staff kicked off a citywide contest to design a special dog in the player’s honor. The Kaep dog was the winner from over 100 entries submitted by the Turlock community.
The Dust Bowl Brewing Company down the street is serving up the #7 Kaepernick Special, a pepperjack burger topped with jalapenos and grilled onions with a side of fries with a Red IPA in honor of the Red & Gold. Owner Brett Tate was one of Colin’s assistant baseball coaches at Pitman and the brewery has quickly become one of the most popular locations in the valley to watch 49ers games. Tate said that they expect a maximum capacity crowd for the Super Bowl and have extended happy hour prices to cover the entire day.
Across town, both Frost Bakery & Fine Foods and Olde Tyme Bakery have developed a line of cookies and cupcakes in honor of Kaepernick. Frost’s Shelly Koch said that at Colin’s request the bakery has pledged to donate 10% of the profits made from the Kaep Cakes—red velvet cupcakes topped with gold sprinkles and a glittering number 7—and other 49ers inspired cookies back to the Pitman Booster Club and Camp Taylor. “My goal is to raise $5,000 for the school, and I don’t see why we couldn’t do it!” said Koch.
Ultimately, Koch did meet her goal, but despite the wholehearted support from his hometown, Colin and the 49ers did not. But with a fan base dedicated to his success and a strong, tactically gifted head on those big shoulders, Colin Kaepernick will enter next season—and the balance of his pro career—as the quarterback by which others are measured. And whether he takes home the trophy next year or not for many years to come, one things is certain: the people of Turlock will never forget this local boy who made it into the big time.