Colin Kaepernick just kept waiting. The offers for baseball scholarships kept pouring in as he dominated opposing hitters off the mound, throwing two no-hitters including one where he struck out 15. He was a little wild, but his fastball stayed at 92 MPH and touched 94, and paired in with a curveball that showed promise. He was 6’5″, 180 and oozing with potential, attracting college baseball programs and even major league scouts. But an offer finally came for a football scholarship, from the University of Nevada-Reno. Even as dozens of college baseball programs watched in disbelief, Kaepernick never regretted that decision. But that didn’t mean that MLB teams were completely sure baseball wasn’t in his future.
In 2008, Kaepernick had a strong sophomore season for the Wolf Pack, passing for 2849 yards with 22 touchdowns versus just 7 interceptions and also rushing for 1130 yards and 17 more touchdowns. However, NFL teams evaluating him were not convinced that he could project as an NFL quarterback. He had added some weight but was still was a lean 6’5″, 205 and teams questioned whether he’d be able to handle the consistent beating he would get as a quarterback. He had also managed just a 54.3% completion percentage, 8th even in the mid-major Western Athletic Conference, featuring a big arm but a long motion that teams imagined as fitting much better on the mound than on the gridiron. And with all that in mind, one team, the Chicago Cubs, were willing to take a chance on him in that year’s MLB Draft. Down in the 43rd round of the 2009 MLB Draft, the Cubs selected Kaepernick and offered him a $50,000 bonus to join their organization at least for a summer and see what he could do as a pitcher. They weren’t trying to take him away from football, only divide his attention for a while and eventually prove to him that the baseball diamond was where he belonged. Kaepernick declined, believing that football was going to be his future and ready to do everything it would take to make that possible. He spent the next two years answering all the questions NFL teams had about him, filling out to 230 pounds, shortened his throwing motion, and increasing his completion percentage to 58.9% as a junior and 64.9% as a senior, prompting the San Francisco 49ers to take him 36th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. And this season, all of Kaepernick’s ability came to fruition as he took over for Alex Smith following Smith’s concussion and never let the quarterback job go, completing 136 of 218 passes (62.4%) for 1814 yards and 10 touchdowns versus 3 interceptions and rushing for 415 more yards and 5 touchdowns. MLB teams could dream of Kaepernick’s projectable frame and easy velocity off the mound- but Kaepernick stuck to his gut and chose football, and the results could not have been any better so far as Kaepernick gets ready to lead the 49ers in their Super Bowl matchup versus the Baltimore Ravens in just a few minutes.