These days, Colin Kaepernick is better known as a social justice activist than he is as a former NFL quarterback.
Several years ago, however, he was a good one, as he helped lead the revival of the San Francisco 49ers after several very dark years.
But once he started to take a knee during the playing of our national anthem, he became a polarizing figure.
The 49ers released him, and he hasn’t been able to find a job in the NFL ever since.
Did his departure from the team happen only because of football reasons, or was there something more complex at play?
A Good Quarterback Who Came Seemingly Out Of Nowhere
The Northern California native (he spent his first four years in Wisconsin) mostly got college scholarship offers to play baseball as a pitcher, but the University of Nevada, Reno offered him a scholarship to play football, and he chose the gridiron over the baseball diamond.
At Nevada, Kaepernick put up strong numbers, totaling 10,098 passing yards and 82 touchdowns in 51 games that spanned four years.
But it was only good enough for him to be taken with the 36th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the 49ers.
Kaepernick spent his first season as a backup behind Alex Smith, and therefore he saw action in just three contests that year, attempting only five passes and completing three of them.
He continued to get limited playing time in 2012 until everything changed in Week 10.
That was when Smith suffered a concussion and Kaepernick was called upon to replace him versus the St. Louis Rams.
The second-year man went 11-of-17 that day for 117 yards while adding 66 yards and a touchdown on the ground, as the Niners fought back from a 14-0 deficit to end the contest with a tie.
The next week in a Monday Night Football contest versus the defensive-minded Chicago bears, Kaepernick completed 16-of-23 passes and threw for two touchdowns in his first-ever start as San Francisco trounced the Bears.
Even when Smith was cleared to return, head coach Jim Harbaugh decided to stick with Kaepernick, and the new signal-caller took the team to the Super Bowl, where it competed hard but lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
Colin Kaepernick to Randy Moss for a TD. It really happened and Moss went to a SB with the 49ers ☺️ pic.twitter.com/sRgZqhyUF8
— Lucio Perez (@sfpd2217) July 15, 2022
In 2013, with Kaepernick starting under center in all 16 games, San Francisco went 12-4 but suffered a narrow heartbreaking loss to the rival Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.
— Coach Yac 🗣 (@Coach_Yac) July 15, 2022
After that, the 49ers came apart at the seams, as key members left the team and it missed the playoffs for five consecutive years.
Kaepernick’s production declined, and after the 2015 campaign, he asked to be traded.
He underwent three surgeries and lost his starting job shortly afterward, but it was another decision he made that is widely believed to have cost him his job.
Kaepernick The Activist
In the 2016 preseason, Kaepernick started peacefully protesting during the playing of the national anthem prior to kickoff in order to take a stand against systemic racism, especially the racism that some accuse law enforcement agencies of.
While such actions are laudable and may create greater awareness of shootings, killings, and other incidents of abuse of power by police officers, many feel he has been blackballed from the NFL, supposedly because team owners don’t want to employ a player who creates polarization because of his political views.
Ever since Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract in 2017, no one has shown serious interest in him, although the Seahawks visited with him that year.
Since then, Kaepernick has seemingly committed to being a full-time activist, and his 2018 Nike ad is hard to forget.
If Kaepernick’s greatest contribution is helping to improve race relations, he would likely take that over winning a Super Bowl any time.