SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It's the Tim Tebow syndrome, 2,500 miles west and a year later. Colin Kaepernick is also a quarterback with a signature gesture. But there are differences. Kaepernick has a body full of tattoos -- virtually all religious in nature -- is a starter and has the 49ers one win from the Super Bowl.
In this world of short attention spans, Tebowing -- taking a knee and holding a clenched fist to his forehead -- has been replaced by Kaepernicking, in which he kisses his right biceps after scoring a touchdown.
The move may not be unique, having originated with pro wrestler Scott Steiner and used frequently by Metta World Peace of the Lakers. But it has swept Northern California after Kaepernick, running for two touchdowns and 181 yards, a playoff record for quarterbacks, and passing for two TDs, led the Niners over Green Bay Saturday night and into Sunday's NFC Championship Game at Atlanta.
"I saw a girl Kaepernicking while riding a horse," Kaepernick said yesterday of photos emailed to his agent Scott Smith.
The 49ers, beaten by the Giants in last year's NFC title game, are riding Kaepernick as well as their third-ranked defense. He replaced injured Alex Smith Nov. 11 against the Rams, and Kaepernick's size (6-4, 230), speed (4.4 40, he said) and arm strength (drafted by the Cubs as a pitcher) have been startling.
To all except coach Jim Harbaugh, who went to the University of Nevada at Reno to scout Kaepernick and drafted him in the second round in 2011. "I didn't notice a chip on his shoulder," Harbaugh said, "but all players on this team have something to prove."
Kaepernick says little, but in September, aching to play, he told the San Francisco Chronicle: "That's the ultimate feeling of being an athlete. You get in the open field and you get a chance to show your speed against the speed of linebackers and defensive backs, who are considered some of the best athletes in the world."
Kaepernick showed that speed against Green Bay, and former NFL coach and announcer John Madden was wowed. Asked if he ever had seen a quarterback run that way, Madden told Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, "No, no. He reminds me of that sprinter [Usain] Bolt."
Kaepernick is on regional covers of this weekend's Sports Illustrated.
"I didn't expect that," said Kaepernick, who grew up in Turlock, 100 miles southeast of San Francisco. "It's a great honor."