Colin Kaepernick Race: Is He Latino or Black, and Everything You Need to Know About the 49ers QB

The Super Bowl is the most widely watched event on American television. This year the opponents in Super Bowl XLVII are the Baltimore Ravens vs. the San Francisco 49ers. As a sporting event, nothing compares to the Super Bowl in American sports. It is a two week media extravaganza.

Every Super Bowl has its storyline. This year there are some interesting ones. Jim and John Harbaugh are the respective coaches of the teams and this is the first time that brothers will face off against each other in the Super Bowl. Ray Lewis, the star linebacker and sure fire Hall of Famer from the Baltimore Ravens is retiring. The Super Bowl will be his last game. He’d like to cap his career with a second Super Bowl victory. Colin Kaepernick, the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, also has a special story to tell.

From his storybook rise to fame to his marketing appeal and trademark tattoos, Kaepernick is a great story line. On Super Bowl Sunday, Colin Kaepernick will look to complete a journey that began with a letter he wrote in the fourth grade. In that letter he wrote, “I hope I go to a good college in football[.] Then go to the pros and play on the Niners or the Packers even if they aren't good in seven years.” 

When Kaepernick takes the field it will be only the 10th time he has started a professional football game. Only two quarterbacks have had less experience as a starting quarterback in Super Bowl history. Kaepernick was drafted in 2011 and was a backup to Alex Smith until Smith was injured in 2012. Kaepernick took over for Smith and has been the starting quarterback ever since, a story reminiscent of Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig.

Kaepernick was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is of mixed race (African American and European) and was adopted as a child by Rick and Teresa Kaepernick. He excelled in all sports and was a star baseball, basketball, and football player. Football was his favorite sport but baseball was his best sport. He was a two-time all-state baseball player in California and received a number of scholarship offers to play college baseball. But Kaepernick wanted to play football. Rather than accept the baseball scholarships, he decided to accept a football scholarship to the University of Nevada. Nevada was the only university that offered him a football scholarship. In 2009, Kaepernick was drafted by the Chicago Cubs to play baseball but he elected to pursue a career as a football player.

Kaepernick was a 6’4”, 170lb string bean and there was some concern about whether he had the size to play big-time football. He started off as a redshirt freshman, but when the starting quarterback was injured, Kaepernick was inserted into the starting lineup and never looked back. He completed the season and was named the 2007 Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year.  

In 2008, he became just the fifth player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 or more yards in a single season and was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year. In 2009, he became the first player in NCAA history to record back-to-back 2,000/1,000 yard seasons. In 2010, he was the first player in NCAA history to have over 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing for three consecutive seasons. Kaepernick is the only quarterback in the history of Division I FBS college football to have passed for over 10,000 yards and rushed for over 4,000 yards in a collegiate career. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management and is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

Kaepernick was drafted by the 49ers in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. In 2012, a quarterback controversy ensued when Coach Jim Harbaugh inserted him into the starting lineup. Alex Smith had just led the team to the NFC championship game and was the third-ranked quarterback in the league when he was injured. Just like in his college career, once inserted into the starting lineup, Kaepernick never looked back. In his first playoff game, Kaepernick set an NFL single-game record for most rushing yards by a quarterback with 181.

Kaepernick’s story is not without controversy. On the advice of his agent, he has sought to trademark the term "Kaepernicking" for commercial use. Kaepernicking describes his signature touchdown celebration of kissing his bicep. The reaction to the marketing move has been mixed, with some feeling that he should concentrate on the on-field preparation for the Super Bowl. But as Bleacher Report noted, apparel with Kaepernick’s likeness is already being sold, and the instance of people “kaepernicking” has gone viral. Bleacher Report explained: “With Kaepernick's fame bound to exceptionally increase, it was smart for the 49ers quarterback to trademark the word that describes his touchdown celebration.”

Like many modern day athletes, Kaepernick has a body full of tattoos. A major controversy ensued when David Whitley of Sporting News suggested that Kaepernick looked more like a prisoner than a NFL quarterback. In Whitley’s opinion, “NFL quarterback is the ultimate position of influence and responsibility. He is the CEO of a high-profile organization, and you don’t want your CEO to look like he just got paroled.” Kaepernick’s body art mainly consists of bible verses and messaging “about being respected, taking on enemies without fear, letting God be the guide against doubters.” Kaepernick said “I got them for me and this is to show people this is what I believe in." Rick Kaepernick came to the defense of his son: “Instead of saying that Colin does all these great things and donates his time to children, this guy is going to make him out like a gangster.” His mother, Teresa Kaepernick, responded to the Whitley column: “It annoyed me.”

He’s made it through college and is a star in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers fulfilling a dream that began in the fourth grade. On Super Bowl Sunday, he can add champion to his list of accomplishments. Maybe he’ll commemorate it with a tattoo of himself kissing the bicep of one arm while holding the Super Bowl trophy in the other.