Colin Kaepernick is going to be the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback. Not just this week, but from here on out.
Filling in for an injured Alex Smith against the Bears in Week 11, Kaepernick went 16-23, passing for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns. That performance was good enough to get him the start against the Saints in Week 12, where he was 16-25 for 231 yards and a touchdown, plus a rushing TD. Kaepernick seems to have zip on his passes, while demonstrating that clichéd-but-crucial poise in the pocket.
So even if Coach Harbaugh continues offering vague, wishy-washy statements on who will be the QB in SF, don't believe him. Kaepernick is the guy. Despite leading the 'Niners to the NFL Championship game last season and playing at a high level this season, Smith is out in SF. It's an incredible story, and it's one any athlete can learn from.
Here are the biggest lessons to take away from the story of Kaepernick and the 49ers:
You may only get one chance to show your stuff. Kaepernick wouldn't have got much playing time if he hadn't been ready to step in immediately and perform. Be ready the minute coach calls your number, or you'll likely waste your opportunity to show what you can do.
Alex Smith may have had his job snatched from him while he was hurt, but if he starts talking about how frustrated he is about his situation, he'll have trouble finding a new team next season. You have the freedom to say whatever you want, but always remember that your words have consequences.
When Kaepernick was drafted, critics labeled him as skinny and slight. Although his listed body weight isn't much different from his college weight, he's been able to add muscle to his frame and change his body composition, giving him a better chance to excel on the field (Check out the Skinny Guy Workout.)
Imagine you're a player on the 49ers. First, your starting QB goes down. That's jarring enough. Then, the backup outplays him and wins the job. Prepare for those curveball moments and mentally visualize them so you're not caught off-guard when roster changes happen.
Before he played his first game, Colin Kaepernick never told the media that he should be the starter. Instead, he just waited for his opportunity and took full advantage when it came. Use the same approach in your own career. Stop telling people how good you are and start proving it in practice.
Listen to Vernon Davis on the podium after Kaepernick's first game. He sounds like a guy who has been won over, both with on-field play and off-field demeanor. It's clear that Kaepernick has earned not only the starting QB job, but also the respect of his teammates. Make it your job to connect with your teammates, and set yourself up as a locker room leader.
Photo: USA Today