Niners QB Colin Kaepernick Puts Turlock on the Map

Everyone seems to be baking a sugary treat in his honor

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback who grew up in the Central Valley, has put Turlock on the map. NBC Bay Area's Joe Rosato Jr. reports. (Published Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013)

    It's one of those small-town-boy-makes-good kinds of stories people love. One day you're lobbing passes on a high school gridiron, the next the entire town is baking cookies with your jersey number on it.

    So goes the tale of 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose meteoric ascent from a small Central Valley city to the main stage of the Super Bowl is already legend around his hometown of Turlock.

    "It's put Turlock on the map," said Shelly Koch, owner of Frost Bakery in Turlock. "We've never been on the map before."

    Koch was one of the many local entrepreneurs quickly interpreting the town's most famous son into a baked good. Her bakery near Pitman High School, which Kaepernick attended, was busily churning out red velvet cupcakes ornamented with his number seven, cleverly named "Cap Cakes." 

    "There's an excitement and a buzz and everybody's happy," Koch said.  "It's just given people something to be proud of."

    The sugary pride didn't stop with cupcakes.

    Olde Tyme Pastries on Geer Road was having trouble keeping the shelves stocked with its Kaepernick-inspired red frosted cookies, lovingly formed in the shape of a number seven jersey. 

    "We had a hundred trays of them Saturday," owner Sherry Wagner said."We sold out."

    The buzz around Turlock over Kaepernick's success went well beyond a sugar buzz. For decades this city of 70,000 has described itself as Stanislaus County's second-largest town, next to nearby Modesto.

    Swallowed by fertile almond and peach orchards Turlock never made much in the way of headlines, though its Wikipedia page lists former female shot putter-turned Glee cast member Dot Jones, and actor James Mitchell as other famous locals.

    Now, all the focus, however is that Turlock is also the hometown of Colin Kaepernick - an unfurling football megastar bound for the Super bowl after less than a dozen starts. 

    Although Kaepernick dazzled in football, baseball and basketball while at Pitman High, the sudden fame hasn't yet sunk-in for the people who knew him back then. 
     
    "It's a little surreal when you turn on Sports Center and every other commentary is about Kaepernick," said Amy Curd, his former high school math teacher.

    Coaches and teammates described Kaepernick as a quiet, well-mannered kid with a ferociously competitive streak.     

    "As far as high school guys," Pitman head football coach Brandon Harris said. "He's a guy who hated to lose as much as anyone I've ever been around."

    Harris remembered back when he was Kaepernick's high school offensive coordinator, he'd often hear the player's friends describe him as ticked off after losing in ping pong or video games. But Harris said the competitive streak belied a gentler nature.

    "He was just a kind kid so everybody's really happy for him," said Harris. "He wasn't like the stereotypical jock. He's got a pet turtle for crying out loud."

    During Kaepernick's high school days, he led the Pitman Pride football team to two league championships. Longtime friend and fellow Pitman player Anthony Harding said all the glowing adjectives being used to describe Kaepernick now, were readily evident back then.  

    "He was a very competitive guy, a person everybody looked up to,"Harding said, "'cause of his hard work and dedication. Not necessarily the words he would say, but the way he led by example."

    Harding remains close to Kaepernick and his family, and said his old friend is moved by the words of praise emanating from his hometown.  

    "He has a lot of fans out there and a lot of little kids looking up to him," Harding said. "I think he really enjoys that.  I think that's the best part about it."
       
    On Thursday, Koch of Frost Bakery was readying to make a special delivery. The Kaepernick family, and supposedly the man himself,  had ordered two-hundred "Cap Cakes," to be sent to Pitman High School, as a thank you to the staff and teachers for their support.

    Koch pondered the city's newfound fame - the teams of journalists who've recently showed-up hunting down Kaepernick's past. As she slid a tray of the frosted cakes back into the case she smiled.

    "We're all adjusting," she said.