TURLOCK — Colin Kaepernick was in fourth grade at Dutcher Elementary School when a teacher assigned him to write a letter to his future self.
Though just 5-foot-2 and 91 pounds at the time, the kid saw big things ahead. Little Colin 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."
This week, the adult Colin Kaepernick sent his reply: He filled in as the 49ers quarterback on "Monday Night Football" and put on such a dazzling display that the job might be his for keeps.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to make it official, but Sports Illustrated reported this week that Kaepernick would start this Sunday
Here in Turlock, the Central Valley city of 69,089, no one is shocked that Kaepernick is following his life plan almost to the letter.
"What he did (Monday) didn't surprise me one bit,'' said longtime friend Phil Sanchez, a counselor at John H. Pitman High School, where Kaepernick secured his legend. "Those throws? I've seen him make them all before. Scanning the field? Making the best reads? Being a leader? I've seen it a million times."
Kaepernick breezed through his first NFL start Monday night carving up the league's second-ranked scoring defense for 243 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He attacked without hesitation,
In short, he looked a lot like he did when he was here. The adopted son of Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, Colin was 4 when his family moved from Wisconsin to Turlock. Dad is the vice president of operations for the Hilmar Cheese Co., mom is a retired nurse. (Both had been Green Bay Packers fans.)
Promptly upon his arrival, Colin began creating his legend on every athletic field in town. His friends here still call him "Bo" -- as in Bo Jackson, the multi-sport sensation of the 1990s.
Baseball? Kaepernick was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. Basketball? He secured his football scholarship to Nevada when the coach saw the way Kaepernick bounded around the basketball court (on a night he was playing with a 103-degree fever.) Football? He threw 25 touchdown passes as a senior.
Kaepernick was an all-state nominee in all those sports and had there been an all-state team for lunch-time games, he would have won honors there too. Recalling the crowds Kaepernick and running back Anthony Harding would draw in the quad at Pitman High, principal Rod Hollars said: "These guys are big sports studs, and they're out there playing four-square."
In the tales of Kaepernick's athletic
Hollars, the principal, understanding that an out-of-towner might find these tales too tall to believe, kept summoning witnesses to his office Tuesday. Every passer-by was beckoned to step in and commanded to take a seat.
Kaepernick's math teacher, Amy Curd, told of the kid who graduated with a 4.1 grade-point average and always insisted on sitting in the front row. "He was a great, great student -- a top student,'' Curd said. "He exhibited a lot of the same characteristics you see on the field. He was very competitive."
Harding, the running back who went on to play at Fresno State, recalled how Kaepernick would go sprinting toward teammates to thank them for making a big play. Harding saw the same thing Monday night.
"The biggest thing I saw was that he was having fun,'' said Harding, who now works with special education students at Pitman High. "He was high-fiving everybody. When he threw that touchdown pass (to Michael Crabtree), he was the first one to congratulate him."
Brandon Harris, the football coach, was out sick Tuesday, so Hollars rousted him from bed and put him on the speaker phone. Harris was the offensive coordinator when Kaepernick and Harding helped put the school on the map in 2004.
Pitman High had been open for two years, but nobody wanted to go there. Many local families go back several generations at Turlock High and the kids preferred to be part of the Bulldog tradition.
But in the first-ever meeting between schools, Kaepernick delivered some credibility for fledgling Pitman High. He and Harding led a 19-16 upset, delivering a long touchdown drive in the final minute.
The quarterback would have more prolific games, but the play Harris will never forget was the way Kaepernick recovered from a fumbled snap on a fourth-and-1 and somehow willed his way to a first down to keep the winning drive alive.
"He wasn't the big guy you see now,'' Harris said. "He just made it happen."
Believe it or not, there was still at least one skeptic in Turlock earlier this week. Chris Seachrist, a bartender at the Dust Bowl Brewery, spent the days leading up to the Monday night game telling people that Smith should start because Kaepernick, just 25, would be unprepared for the ferocious Bears defense.
The Dust Bowl was closed Monday night, so Seachrist ate his crow via cellphone.
"I was getting text messages from my regular customers saying, 'Are you ready to take back that statement yet?''' Seachrist said Tuesday.
He smiled wide.
Yes, he said. Yes, he is.
Follow Daniel Brown on Twitter at mercbrownie.