San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) throws the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during the third quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. (Photo: Daniel Shirey, USA TODAY Sports)
NEW ORLEANS (USA TODAY) -- When San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh switched starting quarterbacks midseason, the decision to bench Alex Smith, the guy who had taken the team to the NFC Championship Game, in favor of Colin Kaepernick, the kid known more for the words on his body than the statistics on his resume, stunned the NFL.
Kaepernick, however, wasn't shocked. His reaction?
Hey, coach, what took you so long?
That's pretty cocky thinking from an unknown who had run the scout-team offense in his rookie season, then battled unaccomplished Josh Johnson for the backup job this past summer. In six months, Kaepernick has gone from sweating out the final cut to starting quarterback in the Super Bowl.
But he's unfazed.
After an amazing run through the regular season and the playoffs, Kaepernick on Sunday night shared what he was thinking while he fought to stay on the roster in August. In the first press conference of Super Bowl week, he looked his questioners in the eye when asked about the enormity of Sunday's game and his lack of experience and said:
"I've always been prepared for this."
Even though six months ago, there was a question about whether he'd even make the team?
"It was hard work, and it was a competition," he said. "I was trying to do everything I could to prove that I needed to be at least No. 2, and that I could go out and play. At the start of the season, I was just hoping to get on the field some way, somehow."
Did you catch that? "At least No. 2," meaning possibly No. 1.
"I thought I was confident enough (to do this) if I could get the opportunity," Kaepernick said. "You always want to be on the field, and when they finally called my number, I wanted to be ready. If you're prepared, you'll be confident, and I've always been prepared for this, thanks to all of the coaches I've had."
While he was certain he'd succeed if he could just get a chance, Kaepernick said he wasn't getting a vibe from Harbaugh that his chance was coming any time soon. Kaepernick believed, in his heart, that he should've been the starting quarterback coming out of training camp, but he wasn't certain Harbaugh would ever see it his way, at least not this season.
Kaepernick got his big break when Smith suffered a concussion and never got the starting job back.
Kaepernick's first significant game action came against the Jets in Week 4, when -- with all eyes on Tim Tebow -- Kaepernick ran 10 times for 50 yards and a TD. After that, he saw spotty action until Week 10, when he took over for the woozy Smith. The Niners tied the St. Louis Rams, and Kaepernick has been the starter ever since in a 5-2-1 run through the regular season.
Two playoff victories -- which included a quarterback-record 181 yards rushing, two rushing TDs and two more passing in a blowout of the Green Bay Packers -- have put him in the Super Bowl with just nine NFL starts.
Only two quarterbacks -- Vince Ferragamo and Jeff Hostetler -- have started Super Bowls with fewer NFL starts. But that's nothing. That's the meaningless history of another age.
"Yeah, I know about that," Kaepernick said. "But it's just the situation we're in."
Kevin Manahan, USA TODAY Sports