Posted: Friday July 1, 2011 11:09AM ; Updated: Friday July 1, 2011 11:09AM
Ann Killion

Unheralded Colin Kaepernick the quarterback of 49ers future

Story Highlights

San Francisco drafted Nevada QB Colin Colin Kaepernick in the second round

Told he wasn't strong, athletic enough and lacked arm, he has overcome odds

Kaepernick chose football over pro baseball career and is determined to make it

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Colin Kaepernick became the only Division I QB to throw for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 in his career.
Colin Kaepernick became the only Division I QB to throw for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 in his career.

This isn't the way Colin Kaepernick would have drawn up the start of his NFL career: locked out of the 49ers facility, unable to contact his coach, prevented from going to work.

"It's an odd situation," Kaepernick said, sitting outside a weight room at San Jose State University, where he and other 49ers have been working out on their own.

But Kaepernick can roll with it. Because there's a lot about Kaepernick's football career that hasn't gone exactly the way he would have planned.

For starters, there was the fact that he was constantly told he wouldn't ever even have a football career.

"Not athletic enough, arm not strong enough, too skinny, not competitive enough, throwing mechanics aren't the way they should be," Kaepernick said, ticking off the list of problems his detractors pointed out to him over the years.

But on the second day of this year's NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers moved up to acquire the University of Nevada quarterback.

New 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh sees only upside in Kaepernick.

"I like how well he plays in games," said Harbaugh, who noted that he has no plans to change Kaepernick's throwing mechanics. "He's a superior athlete. He has a very strong arm. He's really smart. He's kind of an All-American type of kid.

"As far as what people are rapping him for, in the NFL, you're always scrutinized and questioned. You can't take anyone else's opinion."

But you can use those opinions for fuel. Kaepernick, 23, doesn't just have a chip on his shoulder, he has inked a me-against-them mentality onto the tops of his muscular arms. He has tattooed two psalms:

"You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me," on one arm and "Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear' though war break out against me, even then I will be confident," on the other. Bridging the psalms, tattooed across his chest, are the words "Against All Odds."

"I had so many people saying I wasn't going to be successful," Kaepernick said. "For me, it's trying to prove those people wrong. They won't tell me whether I'm going to be successful; I'll determine it by how hard I work."

Which is why Kaepernick, 23, is very eager to get to work. But for now, his only hands-on instruction has come from Alex Smith, the man whose job he's trying to take. Smith has been the force behind 49ers informal practice sessions, organizing workouts and distributing the team's playbook.

"Alex had done a great job of translating to the best of his knowledge," Kaepernick said.

Kaepernick had a minor surgery on his left leg in the spring -- which he chooses not to discuss -- and this week is the first time he can fully participate in drills. That's why he opted to skip the rookie symposium held in Florida to work out at San Jose State.

"This is my first opportunity to be out here with my teammates, and being able to do everything," he said. "So I thought it was very important to be here."

Harbaugh has made a great show since taking the 49ers job of publicly wooing Smith, who is in free agency limbo during the labor impasse. Smith's lockout leadership is a clear indication that -- despite six years of futility and frustration -- he's planning to return to the 49ers for a seventh year and is willing to help groom his successor.

"It hasn't been awkward at all," Kaepernick said. "He's helped me with everything, he's been very welcoming. The situation that we're in doesn't have to define our relationship."

But Kaepernick -- who has been within driving distance of the 49ers home city most of his life -- knows full well that there's a wide-open opportunity in San Francisco.
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