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NFL

49ers QB's path leads him to Super Bowl

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 7:48 p.m.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Chicago Cubs scout Sam Hughes watches Colin Kaepernick nowadays and still wonders what the strong-armed NFL quarterback might look like on a pitching mound, as a power arm in the pros. It's hard not to, seeing the zip and accuracy on each throw, the competitive fire and focus.

The Cubs never even watched Kaepernick throw a baseball before drafting him in the 43rd round almost four years ago. They did watch him throw a football for Nevada and decided that the college game told them more than enough.

Ultimately, the Cubs just couldn't lure Kaepernick away from football. Now he's headed to the Super Bowl to lead the 49ers against the Ravens.

Hughes, the longtime national cross-checker in the Cubs' scouting department, and several others, including then-general manager Jim Hendry, figured they should give it a shot and hope Kaepernick might reconsider. Hughes tried for two weeks to convince Kaepernick, who had made it all but clear he would not sign. He was surprised anybody drafted him given he had been so upfront about sticking with football.

But Chicago's NFL sources — Hughes said three different teams — figured Kaepernick would be a late-round pick or even someone who might have to go the route of the Canadian Football League.

That seems so laughable now. The Niners picked Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 draft, made him the starter midseason this year and now will ask him to carry them all the way to the franchise's sixth championship in what will be just his 10th career start.

Kaepernick regularly threw 90 mph in high school but was some 40 pounds heavier as a college football player.

“So I was definitely intrigued, bigger, stronger, more athletic,” Hughes said. “Colin had no idea we were even considering drafting him. I kind of caught him off guard when I called him after we drafted him.”

Then-Nevada coach Chris Ault had the challenge of developing Kaepernick's football motion — and that wasn't an easy task with the QB having been a pitcher.

“His first two years, he was a thrower from his pitching days. It was all sidearm,” Ault said. “That was a habit we had to break. You could see his throwing motion, timing and touch was there. His senior year, I saw the whole package. He was a guy ready for the NFL who could do all things they'd like him to do plus run. Now I look at him with the Niners, and Jim and those guys are doing a super job. He has all the throws. What I really enjoy watching is he really learned to put the touch on the ball when he has to.”

Niners coach Jim Harbaugh can appreciate the Cubs' attempt to recruit Kaepernick to baseball.

“He's a man for all seasons,” Harbaugh said.

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