Colin Kaepernick was a breakthrough star for the 49ers last season. But was he the breakthrough star for the entire nation? (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Around Northern California, everybody knows what Colin Kaepernick did last season.
The second-year quarterback was installed as a starter for the 49ers in November and was electric with both his running and passing, leading San Francisco to a Super Bowl berth.
But was he the greatest breakout star of the past year? Do fans in other parts of the country see Kaepernick in the same light as those in the Bay Area?
Soon, we’ll know.
Voting closes today for the annual ESPY Awards, including the category of Best Breakthrough Athlete.
The five candidates for the award are Kaepernick; Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (“Johnny Football”), who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman; Dodgers phenom outfielder Yasiel Puig, a Cuban defector who just missed being voted to the NL All-Star team; Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who had one of the greatest seasons ever for a rookie; and Russell Wilson, the rookie quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, who beat out veteran Matt Flynn in training camp and then led his team to the playoffs.
It’s a Fab Five and a phenomenal cast of candidates, and whether Kaepernick will come up the winner is in doubt. It’s possible the whole state of Texas – and every SEC fan – may cast votes for Johnny Football. And Trout has been in the national spotlight now for more than a year.
And what about Wilson?
Though he didn’t take the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, Wilson’s impact was enormous. And, as ESPN.com’s NFC West blogger Mike Sando noted, it’s somehow fitting that Kaepernick and Wilson should be rivals in the ESPY vote, to carry over the simmering rivalary between the NFC West powers.
“Two questions tend to come up most frequently during NFC West conversations,” Sando noted recently. “Forty-niners or Seahawks? And, Kaepernick or Wilson? The questions are related, of course. Both players will play leading roles in their franchises’ fortunes in 2013 and for the long term.”
The winner of the ESPY for Best Breakthrough Athlete the past five years have been Jeremy Lin (2012), Blake Griffin (2011), Chris Johnson (2010), Matt Ryan (2009) and Adrian Peterson (2008). No professional athlete from a Bay Area team has won the award.
Voters can make their selections by clicking here.