“He has a stubborn streak in him,” Rick said. “It’s a unique thing because the stubbornness drives him to be so competitive. He thrives on people telling him he can’t, because he’s going to. He’s had that since he’s been 4. He would pick up a baseball bat, and if he couldn’t swing it with the bigger kids, he got mad.”
Stories of Colin’s athletic feats border on legend. Rick was coaching when Colin played youth football at age 9, a level where coaches could be on the field during games. As Colin lined up for the first snap of a game, Rick says he turned to an assistant and told him the opposing team’s coaches were standing too close behind their defense. Sure enough, Colin’s throw sailed over their heads for a touchdown.
In one high school basketball game, Colin won the opening tip-off and went for a backdoor alley-oop dunk on the ensuing play, prompting two University of Nevada coaches in attendance to decide to offer him a scholarship — in football. There’s the time he threw a no-hitter in baseball — then went to the hospital with pneumonia.
The big-armed teen drew more recruiting interest from colleges for baseball. He worked with a pitching coach as a youth, Rick said, and they exercised a rule: Colin didn’t throw a curveball until his senior year of high school. “He basically lived off of fastballs and changeups,” Rick said. “To this day I think that’s saved his arm.”
And the competitive streak extended beyond varsity sports. Pitman principal Rod Hollars recalled Colin as a model student and main player in daily, spirited games of four-square on the cement outside his office. Harding, Colin’s former teammate, said they often battled over the board game Sorry!
“He’d be in it,” Harding said. “The dice is going, he’s the first one trying to look and see if he won or not. He wins, he goes all crazy. He’s a big kid. But it’s hard not to like that.”
Sanchez, the counselor, said Colin, a 4.1 student, satisfied many academic requirements by his junior year at Pitman and could have opted for a lighter courseload as a senior. “It wasn’t even a question,” Sanchez said. “He didn’t want a period off. He didn’t want a T.A. position. He challenged himself.”
Another story Sanchez likes to tell takes place just after the 49ers drafted Colin Kaepernick in 2011. Kaepernick’s mom, Teresa, a retired nurse, helped deliver Sanchez’s first child, and Sanchez is a family friend. After an open practice at the 49ers’ Santa Clara facility, he was with Kaepernick at dinner as autograph seekers kept approaching their table.
“It was at the point where even I was kind of thinking, ‘I just want to finish this meal and have a conversation,’” Sanchez said. “He never once seemed irritated. I said, ‘Colin, you don’t have to do that.’ But it was never anything like that with him.”
Those are the stories that resonate with Doug Harris, 53, from nearby Salida, who wore a 49ers jacket while eating at Main Street Footers on Monday.
“Talking to people that knew him really well, it hasn’t gone to his head,” Harris said. “That’s the one thing, that he’s still staying simple. That’s something that I like a lot.”
The restaurant was inundated with about 75 entries for its Kaepernick contest, said employee Molly Amant. “We’ve had a few haters online, like, ‘We’re not going to eat a dog named after Kaepernick,’” Amant said. “But most people are really excited about it.”
At Wellington’s, a stylish pub where several walls are covered with San Francisco Giants stuff, owner Tony Walker said he has been a 49ers fan since the Joe Montana era. He was “thrilled” when the 49ers drafted Kaepernick, though he thought he’d have to wait a little longer to see the local boy in action.
“Nobody here ever thought it would happen this soon,” Walker said. “It was quite thrilling.”
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