After each touchdown, the 49ers’ quarterback kisses his biceps, a ritual that has become known as “Kaepernicking.”
As of yet, there is no phenomenon known as “Wilsoning,” though if there were, it might involve earnestly exclaiming, “Go, Hawks!” at the end of every conversation.
Colin Kaepernick is covered with tattoos, has posed bare-chested for the cover of GQ and naked for the cover of ESPN The Magazine’s body issue. He raised some hackles in July when he was spotted at a party wearing a Miami Dolphins hat — and then took to Instagram to defiantly defend himself: “I’m goin wear what I want regardless of what you think. …”
Russell Wilson posed in some nice, comfortable sweaters for the same GQ photo spread, and seems constitutionally incapable of ruffling feathers. He has an inherent knack for saying the right thing, even if it sounds vaguely scripted.
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Yet it would be a mistake to take the convenient road and label them as two diametrically opposed quarterbacks — the rebel and the robot.
Look a little deeper, beyond the ink and the platitudes, and you’ll find that the differences between the two are mostly of style, not substance.
The road that Kaepernick and Wilson have traveled to a national spotlight Sunday night, when their teams square off in the first mega-game of the NFL season, goes past some very similar terrain.
For starters, both have been driven by that most powerful motivator, the urge to rebuff those who said they couldn’t. Wilson, of course, was always too small to succeed, a stereotype that he has devoted his athletic life to shattering.
Kaepernick, possessing a 95-mph fastball, nearly had to pursue a baseball career (a secondary talent he shares with Wilson, who had a brief minor-league career with the Rockies) when he was barely recruited out of high school.
Then, despite a stellar career at Nevada and all the apparent measurables you’d want in a quarterback, he wasn’t drafted until the second round, after five other QBs had gone.
“It’s something I carry with me every day. Going through the draft process and seeing people taken before you, it really kind of puts a chip on your shoulder,” he told Jim Rome on his CBS radio show in January.
It’s a quote Kaepernick could easily share with third-rounder Wilson, though Wilson would probably keep the grudge to himself.
Now, that road has taken them to the same destination, as leading players in a quarterback revolution. They showed, along with Robert Griffin III, that the rules had changed, that it was possible to win with both your arms and your legs. The read option was built for the Kaepernick skill-set — “He’s as well-equipped as you can get,’’ Pete Carroll said Wednesday — but Wilson possesses the same tools; merely in a smaller frame.
“They are cut from the same cloth,’’ 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday. “They both are competitive, and both are extremely smart, they throw the ball extremely well, they’re very mobile, and they’re winners.”
That rebel persona of Kaepernick? It’s not really all it’s cracked up to be. The Super Bowl had barely ended with an agonizing 49ers loss when Kaepernick began training with a fervor. He worked out in Atlanta with Olympic runners and jumpers, trying to add some speed and agility. Many of the quotes about Kaepernick’s work ethic — first to the facility, last to leave, a zealous student of the playbook — have also been said about Wilson.
And those tattoos? The majority of them have biblical themes, symbols of a deep faith he shares with Wilson. When you find out that he’s kissing the words “Faith” and “To God the glory,” on his biceps — the latter around a sketch of two hands praying — it doesn’t seem quite so renegade.
Wilson has always been regarded as a cerebral quarterback, and it clearly irks Kaepernick that he hasn’t earned the same label. He bristles when his success is credited solely to his extensive physical skills, as if it was all natural ability. Never mind that his 38 on the Wonderlic intelligence test given to potential draftees was one of the highest recorded.
“I think the biggest part of my game that’s underestimated is the mental part of it,’’ Kaepernick told GQ.
Wilson has had the same trouble getting people to respect the physical part of his game, as if his huge hands, rocket arm and mobility are irrelevant if it comes in a 5-foot-11 body.
Heck, you could even see these guys as buddies, though Kaepernick told Seattle reporters Wednesday that their relationship largely consists of a day together shooting EA Sports commercials.
In one of those ads, they wagered an eyebrow — yeah, an eyebrow — over Sunday’s outcome, as in the loser has to shave one of his. Wilson has since backed off a bit, telling KJR that “It’s not real serious. We’ll probably do something digitally.”
That’s wise, because it wouldn’t be cool, should the Seahawks fall on Sunday, for “Wilsoning” to become the act of eyebrow removal.
Besides, Wilson and Kaepernick still have one more meeting this season — maybe even two. Because if there’s one thing these quarterbacks have in common, when you strip away the superficial trappings, it is that they are intent on, and fully capable of, leading their teams to a title.
|How the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick did in their Week 1 games:|
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @StoneLarry