Can I rename this “human favorites” instead? The first time I noticed former San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick was when the 49ers played the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII aka “The Harbaugh Bowl”. I didn’t watch football back then but I knew I hated the Ravens (and the Patriots) so I aggressively and profanely cheered for Kaep and co. Although I was disappointed that day, I continued to root for this QB I grew to love, even more so as controversy surrounded him.
Colin Kaepernick was a three sport athlete at John H. Pitman High School, excelling in football, basketball, and baseball. Although he was most successful as a pitcher, Kaepernick’s true love revolved around the pigskin and pads, so he accepted a football scholarship with Nevada in 2007. As a freshman, Kaepernick played in 11 games where he completed 133 of 247 attempts for 2,175 yards with 19 TDs and 3 INTs. Kaepernick continued to improve in his second year, becoming the fifth player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 or more yards in a single season. He completed 208 passes of 383 attempts for 2,849 yards with 22 TDs and 7 INTs. He was also named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2008. Prior to his junior season, Kaepernick was named to many award watch lists including Davey O’Brien, Maxwell, and Manning. He completed 166 of 282 pass attempts for 2,052 yards with 20 TDs and 6 INTs. With his stats, Kaepernick became the first player in NCAA history to record back-to-back 2,000 and 1,000 yard seasons. A dominant junior season drew praise from the media, coaches, and award watch lists. Kaepernick was named to the pre-season watch list for awards including Davey O’Brien, Manning, Paul Hornung, Unitas, Maxwell, and Walter Camp. In his final year, Kaepernick became the second quarterback in FBS history to throw for 20 touchdowns and run for 20 in a single season. He completed 233 of 359 attempts for 3,022 yards with 21 TDs and 8 INTs. He is the only QB in Division I FBS history to pass for over 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 yards in a career.
In the 2011 NFL Draft, Kaepernick was selected by the 49ers as the 36th pick. In his first season as a backup, he completed 3 of 5 attempts for 35 yards. Replacing former starting QB Alex Smith, Kaepernick finally had the chance to prove himself on the grand stage. He completed 136 of 218 pass attempts for 1,814 yards with 10 TDs and 3 INTs in 2012. Kaepernick led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII, but they ultimately fell 31-34 against the Ravens. His stats continued to improve as he completed 243 of 416 attempts for 3,197 yards with 21 TDs and 8 INTs in 2013. San Francisco attempted to return to the Super Bowl, but failed against the ultimate champion Seattle Seahawks. In former head coach Jim Harbaugh’s last season with the 49ers, Kaepernick recorded 289 of 478 attempts for 3,369 yards with 19 TDs and 10 INTs. After Harbaugh left for Michigan, Kaepernick was benched as starter and only completed 144 of 244 passes for 1,615 yards with 6 TDs and 5 INTs. 2016 was Kaepernick’s last season on the 49ers roster and it was filled with controversy. He totaled 196 of 331 attempts for 2,241 yards with 16 TDs and 4 INTs.
My respect for Kaepernick grew when he infamously knelt during ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at the beginning of the 2016 season in protest of the treatment of African-Americans in the U.S. He continued the civil disobedience throughout the season, inspiring a wave of support from other NFL players across the nation. Although his actions sparked uproar from NFL fans and non-viewers, Kaepernick stuck to his beliefs and became an inspiration for the progressive community. In his free time, Kaepernick held free “Know Your Rights” camps for youth of color where he educated them on their constitutional rights, the importance of higher education, self-empowerment, and how to act in encounters with law enforcement. He also made a “One Million Pledge” where he stated, “I will donateone million dollars plus all the proceeds of my jersey sales from the 2016 season to organizations working in oppressed communities, 100k a month for 10 months.” His website clearly details where each dollar goes and for what reason. Along with his donations, Kaepernick rented a plane to send food, water, and supplies to those suffering famine in Somalia. In early 2017, the non-profit organization ‘100 Suits’ shared how Kaepernick donated 50 of his own personal suits to go to clothing those who are homeless, escaping domestic violence, or recently paroled and looking for jobs.
Although many despise Kaepernick’s “anti-American” protest, he’s remained true to himself in the good deeds he performs in his community and in the world. Colin Kaepernick is my hero because he truly cares for the oppressed when he donates his money, time, and the own clothes off of his back to help others. He was recently released by the 49ers and many GMs have stated that they won’t pick him up to “teach him a lesson”, but I believe that Kaepernick will end up in a place he needs to be where he can play the game he loves while continuing his social justice and humanitarian work.