He has been a bit of a revelation for 49ers fans. The road of quarterback obscurity was long and difficult. There was Tim Rattay, Shaun Hill and of course, Alex Smith. The latter turned out to be a serviceable quarterback, but standing out wasn’t his strong suit.
In many ways, the 49ers have had star quarterbacks — quarterbacks who shine among peers — but not in the same mold as Kaepernick. Joe Montana is the greatest of all time, and Steve Young was a fantastic athlete, but were either as outspoken, as flashy, or as controversial as Kaepernick is?
It’s only appropriate that Kaepernick won the ESPYs “Best Breakthrough Athlete,” and not because the award ceremony has any meaning at all. Honestly, had it not been for the fact there is absolutely nothing to watch, I wouldn’t have been paying any attention to it. I’m not paying attention to it now. I’m going to finish writing this and go out to dinner. Nothing more to see — thanks for making “Breakthrough Athlete” first, ESPN!
It just puts a nice little bow on the crazy year it has been for Kaepernick, the 49ers and their fan base. Many knew and yet few could comprehend just how physically gifted and explosive he would be. Word from those who watched training camp, both in 2011 and 2012, was that he had a cannon, was physically gifted but very raw. Smith was performing quite well for the 49ers before his concussion, and suddenly Kaepernick made the decision very difficult for Jim Harbaugh.
Forget his dual-threat ability and his carefree attitude; everything about Kaepernick is different. He breaks David Whitley’s mold of white bread, starched gunslingers. The thing is, he doesn’t care what Whitley thinks. He doesn’t care what you or I think. He’s getting more tattoos. He’s partying, wearing whatever he wants.
He has an insane work ethic and a special talent, so why should the tattoos and hats matter?
Kaepernick beat out Russell Wilson, Yasiel Puig, Mike Trout and Johnny Manziel for the award. They’re all special talents certainly, but have any of those names changed the game?
Standout players? Sure. Five tools? All there. But Kaepernick defines breakthrough. He was the only correct choice.
Again, it’s the ESPYs, which is to say, literally nobody cares. But Kaepernick winning the award for “Best Breakthrough Athlete” is a reminder that, with less than a month to go before exhibition football, the 49ers finally have superstar quarterback again. It’s going to be a fun season.