49ers gifted Colin Kaepernick poised and aimed at Ravens

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick laughs as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick laughs as he walks onto the Superdome field for practice in New Orleans. (Feb. 2, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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NEW ORLEANS -- He is a 25-year-old with biblical tattoos on his arms and a sense of purpose in his manner, a man who in a matter of weeks has gone from a place on the bench to a key position in the biggest NFL game of any season.

Colin Kaepernick is a star, a mystery and, as the man in control of the pistol offense, the primary weapon for the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

"My Gift is My Curse" is tattooed on his right biceps. It's a saying that describes his gifts and others' expectations, the latter having grown enormously.

"I don't care what people say about my tattoos," Kaepernick said. "I got them to show what I believe in."

He's already a part of several Super Bowl records: the quarterback with the third-fewest previous starts, nine (Jeff Hostetler of the 1990 Giants had five, Vince Ferragamo of the 1979 Rams had six); the sixth-youngest quarterback to start; one of seven quarterbacks who didn't start the first game of his season but started the Super Bowl (Hostetler, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, Trent Dilfer and Tom Brady are the others).

"We have had great quarterbacks and great Super Bowl teams," Kaepernick agreed, referring to a 49ers history that includes Joe Montana, Steve Young and five wins in five previous Super Bowls. "We want to be a part of that."

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When Alex Smith suffered a concussion in the ninth game of the 2012 season, Kaepernick took over. Coach Jim Harbaugh liked his arm, his speed (he set a postseason rushing record for quarterbacks with 181 yards against Green Bay) and his intangibles.

Harbaugh, who traded up to get Kaepernick out of the University of Nevada with the 36th overall pick in the 2011 draft, was set on his man, who in those nine starts threw 13 touchdown passes against only three interceptions.

"We saw enough good things in Colin," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick's play. He also saw plenty when he went to Reno to watch Kaepernick exclusively in the pistol, created by Nevada coach Chris Ault.

"I don't think the pistol is a gimmick, as some people say," Kaepernick said. "What makes it so effective is that it's 11-on-11 football."

Jim Harbaugh's father, Jack, also a coach, told the NFL Network's "The Coaches Show" that Jim thought Kaepernick was "the very best player in the draft. So I think that speaks volumes for his talent."

Kaepernick doesn't say much at all. He grew up in Turlock, Calif., about 100 miles southeast of San Francisco, having been adopted at 5 weeks of age in Wisconsin, where the Kaepernick family lived before moving.

Now 6-4 and 230 pounds, Colin was a three-sport star with a 90-mph fastball who turned down a contract from the Cubs because he always wanted to be a football player.

And more. His gesture of leaning over and kissing his right biceps after a touchdown has been copyrighted as "Kaepernicking." He's the new hero in a city where not long ago, Pablo "Panda'' Sandoval had everyone enthralled as he earned MVP honors in a World Series won by his San Francisco Giants.

Despite Harbaugh's determination to get him, Kaepernick thought that after passing for 10,098 yards and rushing for 4,112, he should have been chosen in the first round. "Anytime someone says someone else is better than you," Kaepernick said of his grudge, "it is going to motivate you."

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