In the eyes of Kyle Kaepernick and Devon Kaepernick Santos, 49ers phenom Colin Kaepernick is just your typical, pain-in-the-rump kid brother.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
But kid brother or not, Colin is, without a doubt, the biggest thing to hit the sports world since Tim Tebow or Jeremy Lin.
You remember Tebow. He’s the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who became such a sensation that his surname evolved into a verb, as fans began “Tebowing” in every NFL city. Lin was a journeyman NBA player who lit up Broadway with the New York Knicks and landed on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated in the same week. His surname spawned the term “Linsanity,” used to describe the rock-star frenzy surrounding his every move.
And now there’s Colin Kaepernick, whose story is as ubiquitous as a Kardashian: Adopted son, hometown hero, football star, magazine cover boy, Sports Illustrated jinx buster and soon-to-be Madison Avenue pitch-man.
Surely, Kyle and Devon must be somewhat awestruck.
“He’s going to have to do a lot more to impress me,” said Devon, 31, a microbiology supervisor at Hilmar Cheese Co., where her older brother and father also work.
But how can you not be impressed when your kid brother’s bicep-flexing touchdown celebration – known on every social media outlet as “Kaepernicking” – becomes a bigger fad than disco?
“I don’t ‘Kaepernick,’” said Kyle, 35, a process integration manager at Hilmar Cheese. “Maybe if he wins. I don’t know. Whatever.”
Older siblings … sheesh.
But don’t mistake their comments for jealousy. Colin’s brother and sister love him, support him and are extremely proud of him. It’s just that, well, they’re older siblings. And older siblings, by nature, are a tough breed. But not too tough.
“I was reflecting on the fact that I’ve always hated the Minnesota Vikings,” said Kyle, who was born in New London, Wis., and has been a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan. “It was kind of weird to root for Minnesota to beat Green Bay so the 49ers could get the bye and have a home game. But I didn’t think twice about doing it.”
There were earlier signs that Kyle’s tough big-brother veneer was cracking.
“I’d say when I was 23 or 24, when Colin was a freshman in high school, if we played one-on-one I couldn’t win anymore,” said Kyle. “Maybe I could still bully him a bit, but one-on-one became not so fun. We’d play other games, like Horse, but he was pretty good at that, too.”
And Kyle knew before virtually anybody else that Colin was good in football.
“I’d watch him in high school and I kind of knew he’d get a scholarship somewhere,” said Kyle. “When he didn’t I wondered, ‘Am I that biased? Am I just telling myself that he’s good?’ It’s like the ultimate validation right now. … I was right. It’s very satisfying.”
Oddly, sports was the one area where Devon always could one-up her baby bro.
“I wasn’t super athletic when I was younger, but I competed in equestrian events,” she said. “I jumped and showed horses. Let’s just say that Colin is not comfortable on a horse.”
Colin was comfortable, however, on just about any sort of playing field. He was a three-sport star at Pitman High in Turlock.
“In high school, you could see that self-motivation,” said Kyle, who texts frequently with his brother and gets to see him after 49ers home games. “Most kids that age are into video games, but he was always outside. You could see an inner drive that most people don’t have.”
That drive helped earn Colin a football scholarship to the University of Nevada in Reno – the only school to offer him one.
“He’s a stubborn kid, always has been and always will be,” said Devon. “If you told him he couldn’t do something, he’d do it just to prove your wrong. I think getting only one offer helped him. He’ll do whatever it takes to prove you wrong.”
Colin was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft and, on Nov. 19, 2012, in a Monday night matchup against Chicago, took over as the Niners’ starting quarterback, one of the most prestigious positions in professional sports – right up there with center fielder for the New York Yankees or center for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Think of it: The job held at various times by Y.A. Tittle, John Brodie, Joe Montana and Steve Young now belongs to Colin Kaepernick. And that right there is the source of much of “Colinmania.” Maybe it would be different if he played in Buffalo or St. Louis or Cleveland. But he plays for the 49ers, one of the teams for which he rooted as a kid, and one of the league’s true glamour franchises. It’s a story that can be embraced by fans in any region of the country. And, for better or worse, Colin’s family has been sucked into the frenzy.
So, what’s it like being the brother of, essentially, a Beatle?
“We were at a Giants game and some fans came up and one asked, ‘Can I take a picture?’” recalled Kyle. “Then they leave and they start screaming. To me that’s just weird.”
“It’s fun and exciting,” said Devon. “I’m fortunate that my last name’s not Kaepernick anymore. I don’t get all the questions.
“I don’t go to bars anymore to watch the games. I don’t want to hear what anybody else has to say about my brother.”
But a lot of people want to hear what the Kaepernicks have to say.
“I’ve done interviews with the New York Daily News and the Los Angeles Times, and we’ve got a sit-down interview coming up with the NFL Network,” said Kyle. “And I’m going to a Super Bowl. That probably never would’ve happened if not for Colin.”
Spoken like a proud big brother.
By JOE CORTEZ