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OPINION: My love-hate relationship with Colin Kaepernick
Long before he made kissing a bicep and the pistol offense fashionable, Colin Kaepernick was a relatively obscure back-up quarterback in Reno, Nev.
In the fall of 2007, Kaepernick was holding a clipboard on the sideline as then-starter Nick Graziano was piloting Chris Ault's pistol attack at the University of Nevada.
At that same time, I began my first semester as sports editor of Fresno State's campus newspaper, The Collegian. Each week, we put together extensive scouting reports on the Bulldogs' opponent for our readers.
When it came time for Fresno's showdown with Nevada that season, Kaepernick wasn't even mentioned.
On Oct. 6, 2007, Fresno State was well on its way to a rout when the Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-3 lead on the Wolf Pack at Reno's Mackay Stadium.
Yet, just like when Alex Smith went down with a concussion against the St. Louis Rams earlier this season, Kaepernick finally got his shot. Graziano broke his foot in the game, opening up an opportunity for Kaepernick to show the Nevada faithful in attendance what he was all about.
To be honest, Kaepernick didn't look like much when he took the field. He was a gangly-looking teenager and seemed like a prime target for the Fresno State defense — yeah, right.
Before Bulldog fans knew it, he had turned what looked to be an easy win into a shootout.
His collegiate debut went like this: 23-of-36 passing, 384 yards through the air, four passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and 60 yards on the ground.
Fresno State ended up coming away with the 49-41 victory — barely.
Two weeks following his debut against Fresno, Kaepernick lit it up on the national stage against a ranked Boise State squad on ESPN.
The Broncos edged the Wolf Pack in a 69-67 quadruple overtime thriller, but Kaepernick put his stamp on the game with 243 yards passing with three touchdowns and another 177 on the ground with two scores.
Over his final three seasons at Nevada, Kaepernick's legacy continued to grow and us poor Fresno State fans took the brunt of it.
Kaepernick picked up three straight victories over Fresno State to close his collegiate career, accounting for seven touchdowns and 369 rushing yards. Nevada outscored Fresno in those games 128-76.
He grew up in nearby Turlock, just 90 minutes north of Fresno. You think he was a little miffed that former coach Pat Hill didn't come recruit him? He showed it on the field with his play.
One of Fresno State's featured running backs during that time was Kaepernick's high school teammate, Anthony Harding. The Bulldogs' quarterback — Tom Brandstater — also from Turlock.
Kaepernick is used to getting overlooked. It's what fuels him.
The naysayers proclaimed a "gimmicky" offense like the pistol couldn't work in the NFL — tell that to the Green Bay Packers.
He's showing that not only can he beat teams with those gazelle-like strides, but with a rocket arm that could probably get him to the Major Leagues if he wasn't playing football.
Looking back on that Saturday in Reno when it all began for Kaep, he took a very similar approach when his number was called for the Niners.
He wasn't wide-eyed and overwhelmed by the situation. He immediately took control of the game, and six years later, that poise has lifted him to the pinnacle of professional sports.
Sure, he's bulked up a little bit, added some tattoos and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, but he's still that soft-spoken gunslinger playing with that chip on his shoulder trying to prove the doubters wrong.
And here's some irony for you — after years of hating the guy for what he did to my alma mater, I'm cheering him on to lift the team I've been rooting for since I was in diapers to a sixth Super Bowl title.
That's just another thing about Colin Kaepernick I didn't see coming.