NEW ORLEANS -- When Colin Kaepernick took over the QB reins for the San Francisco 49ers in mid-November, it wasn't the first time he'd played that position in The City By The Bay.
Less than two years before, Kaepernick directed his Nevada Wolf Pack squad to a 20-13 victory over Boston College in the inaugural Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park. Kaepernick completed 20-of-33 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown as Nevada compiled a program-best 13-1 record.
He didn't know it at the time, but several 49ers personnel executives, including General Manager Trent Baalke, were on hand that night to view "Kaep" in person. Three months later, the 49ers traded up nine spots in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft to select the rifle-armed Wisconsin native who moved at the age of five with his family to Turlock, CA.
Kaepernick, whose stated goal going into this, his second NFL season, was "to just get on the field somehow, some way" instead has become the most riveting NFL story this season.
After incumbent starter Alex Smith suffered a concussion, Kaepernick made his first 49ers start Nov 19 in a Monday Night game at Candlestick against the Chicago Bears. He and the 49ers whipped the Bears 32-7. With Smith still healing, head coach Jim Harbaugh ultimately named Kaepernick the team's starter for the remainder of the season. He finished the regular season with 136 completions in 218 attempts for 1,814 yards and 10 TDs. He also rushed for 415 yards and five more scores.
Kaepernick directed the 49ers to the NFC West title, a first-round bye, a record-setting rushing effort in a win over Green Bay, then a come-from-behind [17-0 deficit] victory at Atlanta to set up Sunday's Super Bowl showdown against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl has a second alumnus on the 49ers roster. He is WR A.J. Jenkins, who last year scored a 60-yard touchdown for Illinois in his team's 20-14 win over UCLA. Jenkins was the Niners' first round draft choice last spring; due to the team's deep receiving corps that includes future Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss and another former first-rounder Michael Crabtree, Jenkins has yet to see significant action.
Kaepernick & Jenkins continue a lengthy list of Super Bowl performers who have played in San Francisco's bowl game. That list includes WR Hank Baskett [New Mexico 2004/Indianapolis Colts 2009], C/G Kyle DeVan [Oregon State 2007/Indianapolis Colts 2009], LB Mark Herzlich [Boston College 2010/New York Giants 2011], DE Mathias Kiwanuka [Boston College 2003/New York Giants 2007, '11], S Chris Reis [Georgia Tech 2005/New Orleans Saints 2009], WR Matthew Slater [UCLA 2006/New England Patriots 2007, '11], G Chris Snee [Boston College 2003/New York Giants 2007, '11], LB Lawrence Timmons [Florida State 2006/Pittsburgh Steelers 2008, '10] and RB Shane Vereen [California 2008/New England Patriots 2011].