The front-row parking space might've looked to some like star treatment. But the only reason Colin Kaepernick parked his Ford pickup so close during his days at the University of Nevada in Reno was because he arrived before anyone else.
College chums say that's Kaepernick for you. The 49ers' man of the moment is hard-wired to work his way to the top.
"The reason we don't have great stories about fishing and camping or going to Mexico is because it was all about football," former Nevada teammate John Bender said.
By following such principles Kaepernick, 25, has turned the NFL into his personal playground in helping lead San Francisco into Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons. For
The Bay Area's newest celebrity athlete might appear as stale as day-old bread when the cameras are rolling, but C-Kap -- as many friends still call him -- has been that way since his early days in Turlock.
"The answers you get are the same we get as childhood friends," said Spencer Snodgrass, who has known Kaepernick since they were 10. "He's not putting on a show. He's not trying to be something he's not."
And he's not about to change now that coach Jim Harbaugh has given him the keys to the 49ers' smooth-driving offense.
Ask the Chicago Cubs about that. A team official offered Kaepernick $30,000 to spend a month checking out their spring training camp before his senior season in college. The pitcher with a 90 mph fastball declined. "How can I take six weeks off from football when my teammates are working?" he asked.
Not that pro football
Then in the past two months the 6-foot-4, 230-pound player fulfilled a prophecy found in a letter that he wrote to himself in fourth grade saying he wanted to play for the 49ers or the Green Bay Packers.
It came about when 49ers starter Alex Smith suffered a concussion in November. Since Kaepernick started his first game Nov. 19 on Monday Night Football it seems as if life has spiraled out of control.
Only it hasn't.
He's remained focused on leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl while weathering a quarterback controversy with Smith, criticism over his full-body tattoos and media attention about his birth mother.
"If it has nothing to do with football or his family, it doesn't faze him," said Shawn Smith, referring to his adoptive parents Rick and Teresa Kaepernick.
Away from the field, however, Kaepernick is just a big kid at heart.
"Just don't let him tell you he's good at video games," warned Vai Taua, Kaepernick's star running back at Nevada. "He's not."
The hyper competitive Kaepernick loves playing sports-oriented video games. He's also a "SpongeBob SquarePants" freak.
His publicist got a firsthand taste of the Kaepernick orbit during a recent Bay Area visit. Shawn Smith found a couple of "big guys" scrambling to get their Air Hogs dislodged from a tree upon arriving at Kaepernick's home.
The quarterback threw a shoe at the remote control toys to get them down "just like my boys would do," Smith said.
Her client has been offered a book and documentary film deal since his sudden fame but Kaepernick doesn't know about the option -- and doesn't care, Smith said.
He has little interest in cashing in on celebrity.
"He didn't want one bit of it," added Smith, who helps run a small agency in Madison, Wis. "He doesn't ask for anything or expect anything."
None of this would surprise longtime friends. Snodgrass, a former San Jose State pitcher, recalled spending most weekend nights playing full court
But Kaepernick isn't one dimensional. The business management major was searching for a place to do community service when joining Kappa Alpha Psi, one of the few predominately African-American college fraternities.
Kaepernick and fellow Wolf Pack teammate Brandon Marshall rushed together. Marshall, a Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker, said gaining membership was rigorous. "We hated it," he said of how much they had to learn about the fraternity.
Kaepernick religiously studied in the car while driving to Los Angeles to take the membership exam. Once accepted, he embraced the fraternity's motto: Achievement in every field of human endeavor. Kaepernick participated in clothing drives, feeding the homeless and raising money for breast cancer awareness.
"He was a star Nevada quarterback," fraternity brother Olumide Ogundimu said. "All of a sudden we get to see the humble side of him."
Employees at the Silver and Blue Outfitters saw it when Kaepernick interned at the store for two summers.
One day a woman approached Kaepernick asking for a jersey of the Nevada quarterback. When he held one up for her, she replied, "I don't think he's No. 10."
No. 10 assured her it was the right jersey. As a fellow employee rang up the purchase he pointed toward Kaepernick and told the woman, "Just so you know, that is the quarterback."
That is Colin Kaepernick: The last to talk about himself, the first to get to work.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
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