Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

49ers' Colin Kaepernick picked football over pitching for Cubs

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Cubs scout Sam Hughes watches Colin Kaepernick nowadays and still wonders what the strong-armed quarterback might look like on a pitching mound. It's hard not to, seeing the fierce focus, and the zip and accuracy on each throw.

The Cubs never even watched Kaepernick throw a baseball before drafting him in the 43rd round almost four years ago. They did watch him throw a football for Nevada, and decided that college game told them more than enough.

Ultimately, the Cubs couldn't lure Kaepernick away from football. Now, he's headed to the Super Bowl to lead the 49ers against the Ravens on Feb. 3.

Hughes, the national cross-checker, and then-GM Jim Hendry drafted him anyway and hoped Kaepernick might reconsider.

"Yeah, that wasn't happening," Kaepernick said Wednesday.

Hughes tried for two weeks to convince Kaepernick, who had made it all but clear he wouldn't sign. He was surprised he was drafted at all given he had been so upfront about sticking with football.

The 49ers picked Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, made him the starter midseason this year and now will ask him to carry them to the franchise's sixth title in what will be his 10th career NFL start.

"I was looking at this tall, kind of gangly at the time, quarterback that was superathletic and had this really long throwing motion," Hughes said. "I was talking to some of my buddies at Reno and said, 'Boy, I wonder if this kid's ever played baseball, he's got an arm stroke like a pitcher.' "

That sent Hughes on a research project. Kaepernick regularly threw 90 mph in high school, but was 40 pounds heavier as a college football player. He certainly would throw harder.

"So, I was definitely intrigued, bigger, stronger, more athletic," Hughes said. "Colin had no idea we were even considering drafting him. I kind of caught him off guard when I called him after we drafted him. He kind of got a kick out of it. … He had no idea."

Sock fine for 49er: RB Frank Gore was fined $10,500 by the NFL after he wore his socks too low in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, his second uniform violation. "Yeah, I'll be cool. It's all good," Gore said of being up to code for the Super Bowl. "I was wrong. Next time I'll do better."

Raven KO's Pats: SS Bernard Pollard's legal helmet-to-helmet hit on Patriots RB Stevan Ridley forced a fourth-quarter fumble that proved to be pivotal in an upset victory over New England.

"That was the turning point of the football game there on the 40-yard line," coach John Harbaugh said. "It was just a tremendous hit. It was football at its finest."

It's not as if Pollard hadn't done it before. When he was with the Chiefs in 2008, Pollard inadvertently hit Patriots QB Tom Brady in the knee. One year later, New England WR Wes Welker tore his ACL on a tackle by Pollard. Then, in last year's AFC title game, Pollard sprained the ankle of Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski.

Pollard makes no apologies for his aggressive play against Ridley, which did not draw a flag because Ridley was not considered a defenseless player.

"This is a violent sport. We run fast, we hit hard," Pollard said. "For me, I love to play this game. I love to tackle. That's what I do. When you have two guys running full speed at each other, and you have helmets and shoulder pads on, somebody is going to go down. It's not something that I'm proud of. I hope he's all right."

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