1/14 Kaepernick set on football

Tim Wilken was the Cubs scouting director in 2009, and talked to three NFL teams about their projections for Colin Kaepernick, who was a talented pitcher in high school but playing quarterback at that time for Nevada.

“[The NFL teams] didn’t think he was going to be much more than a [Canadian Football League] guy at the time,” Wilken said Monday. “The way it was described to me was that his arm action was somewhat suspect — kind of a slingy arm action with the football — and they were leary of that. They thought he was going to be more of a CFL guy than an NFL guy, and that was his sophomore year [in college]. As we all know, things have a tendency to change.”

Yes, they do. Kaepernick is now the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, and will lead his team into the NFC Championship game. However, he could have been prepping for the Cubs’ 2013 season. Chicago selected Kaepernick in the 43rd round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, hoping to convince him that baseball was better than the CFL.

“We were serious about this,” said Wilken, now a special assistant to the president/general manager on the Cubs. “We’ve had a little success in higher profile settings with [Jeff] Samardzija and [Matt] Szczur. We followed up on it, and after we got the reports from the NFL teams, we were saying, ‘Maybe he wouldn’t be too fond of playing in the CFL,’ so we were going to try to sell ourselves.”

Samardzija and Szczur, obviously, both chose baseball over football. Kaepernick’s high school baseball coach Mick Tate knew which way his pitcher was leaning. A three-sport start at John H. Pitman High School in Turlock, Calif., Kaepernick was nominated for all-state in football, basketball and baseball his senior year. That year, he was 11-2 with a 1.27 ERA in 13 starts with 10 complete games, 97 strikeouts and 39 walks. Plus, he threw two no-hitters. Scouts followed Kaepernick and the Pitman team, yet Tate, 61, knew baseball was just temporary for his star pitcher. Kaepernick received several scholarship offers from colleges to play baseball but only one school wanted him to play football, and that was Nevada. That’s where Kaepernick went.

“There was never a chance he was going to sign a baseball contract from what I know,” Tate said Monday.

The Cubs wanted Kaepernick to sign, play Minor League baseball in July, rejoin the football program at Nevada, and then commit to baseball after he graduated. In a 2011 interview, Kaepernick said: “What kind of leader would my teammates think I am if I left for a month to play baseball?” Instead, he would lead Nevada to victory in the Fight Hunger Bowl, and was the 36th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.

“Colin was pretty set on his goals,” Tate said. “He wanted to be a professional quarterback. He’s done exactly what he’s wanted to do. You’ve got to give the kid credit.”

– Carrie Muskat

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