Since helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl in early February, quarterback Colin Kaepernick has shown First Lady Michelle Obama how to “Kaepernick,” has become a spokesman for Jaguar and has posed for ESPN The Magazine’s annual body issue.
To say the least, it’s been a busy offseason.
But all that activity shouldn’t cloud the fact that Kaeprnick’s primary focus since February has been on getting better. And to those who have seen him work this offseason, that doesn’t just mean honing his on-the-field skills. Apparently, his leadership skills also have taken a great leap forward as well.
Recently, former 49ers quarterback Trent Dilfer – who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and now works as an analyst for ESPN – said Kaepernick’s ascension to the starting quarterback role has changed the environment on the 49ers. He told Scott Kegley of 49ers.com that Kaepernick's work ethic and personality have made him an unquestioned leader on the team.
“I was just watching him this morning and the way he interacts with his teammates,” Dilfer said from the 49ers facility. “When he gets to a meeting room, a weight room or on the field, that place just got better because of his presence, and that’s what you’re looking for.”
The fact that Kaepernick will have had an entire offseason to prepare as the team’s No. 1 quarterback will have a big impact, Dilfer said.
“Colin has the opportunity to set the pace every day,” Dilfer told Kegley. “We want the thermostat leaders, a term I’ve used. Guys who step into an environment and change the environment, they don’t react to it. That’s what Colin’s done.”
Dilfer’s observations mirror those of teammates and coaches since Kaepernick became the team’s starting quarterback last November following an injury to Alex Smith. Once Kaepernick got the chance to show what he can do, the job was his.
Even as a young, second-year NFL player last season with no starting experience, Kaepernick was praised by teammates for the way he handled his responsibilities.
“He knows what to do at the right time,” center Jonathan Goodwin said before the Super Bowl. “When he needs to take control of the huddle, he’s firm, loud, demands things out of guys. And he also knows when to be silly. For a guy … in just his second year (to) control some grown men, it says a lot.”
In March, head coach Jim Harbaugh said he was excited that so many players were eager to get back to work so quickly after the Super Bowl loss. One of those was Kaepernick, who began working out, holding throwing sessions with receivers in the Bay Area and spent several weeks in Georgia refining his fitness, running and throwing skills.
Dilfer said it’s a great thing to see: a quarterback working to improve himself and his teammates.
“So much happens in the offseason with team building,” Dilfer told Kegley. “Usually that centers around a few key figures on the team, the quarterback being one of them. I love watching quarterbacks develop, become graduate-level players with their own flavor. … Now Colin Kaepernick has his own flavor, and it’s beautiful to watch.”