SAN FRANCISCO John Brodie dodged a handheld TV camera, detoured around a bag on the floor and leaned forward toward Colin Kaepernick's locker.
Brodie had to get there, much like he punched over those quarterbacks sneaks during the 1960s. Arguably the San Francisco 49ers' most productive quarterback not to win a Super Bowl simply wanted to touch the hand of Kaepernick and congratulate him.
If anything best demonstrated what Kaepernick did this memorable Saturday night, this moment said it all. The superlatives about Kaepernick were being exclaimed from both locker rooms and across the land on TV. Conversely, Brodie's urgency to get to Kaepernick was tangible, something special, a well-done from an old uber-quarterback-athlete to the new-age uber-quarterback-athlete.
Brodie, 77, has been limited to one-syllable words since he suffered a major stroke in 2000. His right arm, which nearly carried the 49ers to The Big One four decades ago, hung limp. His right hand, a most valuable tool at Stanford, the 49ers and as a successful senior professional golfer, was clenched and motionless.
But when he finally reached Kaepernick, he stuck out his left arm and touched the right hand of the quarterback who beat the Green Bay Packers 45-31 Saturday night.
Brodie also went out of his way to greet Alex Smith, the NFL's most noteworthy backup quarterback, next door. The trio, members of the quarterback fraternity, laughed in a sort of non-conversation, though all of them understood the meaning.
Brodie had witnessed greatness.
Kaepernick, Turlock's favorite son, simply was the best player on the field. But that's not enough to assess his impact. He passed, ran and eventually Kaeped out the Packers in a tour de force of a performance, something the NFL had not before witnessed.
By now, you're aware of the important numbers the 181 rushing yards, the most by an NFL quarterback in any game in league history, the 263 passing touchdowns, the two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns. These would have been crazy numbers if he was playing Madden, much less Aaron Rodgers' team in the NFC playoffs.
But think about it for a second. Consider some of the most important rush-pass quarterbacks over the years. Remember Randall Cunningham, who could cover 10 yards in barely three strides. Or Fran Tarkenton, who dashed in circles before his pursuers collapsed. Or Joe Montana, who could extend a play as long as he needed. Or John Elway, who threw it far and ran just fine in his prime.
None of them rocked the stat book like Kaepernick did against the Pack.
The football world was braced for a judgment on Harbaugh's Hunch, Jim Harbaugh's calculated gamble to bench Smith in midseason (after his injury) and insert Kaepernick. He replaced Smith, the safe choice, in favor of Kaepernick, the "wow" choice.
The former member of the Pitman pride changed the conversation, however, with sheer audacity. The 49ers took the lead to stay on Kaepernick's 56-yard sprint to the end zone, the kind of virtuoso feat that left both his teammates and opponents slack-jawed.
"That's unbelievable," said 49er linebacker Patrick Willis, a hard man to impress. "You never really see him open up like that in practice ... But to see him do it in a game, it amazes me. It wows me."
And across the field, a man from Chico who owns a Super Bowl ring watched with grudging admiration. Alas, his revenge day to beat the team that didn't draft him had been hijacked.
"We didn't really have a lot of answers for him," Rodgers summarized.
It was typical Kaepernick that he dodged a major blunder to start the game, his misguided interception and Green Bay touchdown. Yet after each of his four interceptions this season, he's answered with scoring drives.
"That's rare," Harbaugh said. "He's consistently done a nice job of moving on."
Kaepernick was mobbed by media at midfield after the game. He needed performed another one of his amazing runs just to step into the locker room. He's a star now, a first-year starter who's somehow muscled his team into the NFC Championship Game.
"Any time your team has confidence in you, it makes you feel like you're doing the right thing," he said later. Often terse, he revealed something about himself later, however, when he was asked to describe himself as a quarterback.
"I don't want to be categorized," he said.
Everyone understands the stakes here. Harbaugh has bought another week in his Kaep Gambit. Kaepernick's team beat Team Rodgers, one year after Smith's team beat Team Drew Brees (the New Orleans Saints). The payoff doesn't happen until the Roman Numeraled Game, the day Harbaugh envisioned all along for Kaepernick.
What stunned us Saturday night was Kaepernick himself the resilience, the passing, the leadership and, yes, those nonstop legs.
No less than John Brodie had to check this young man out.
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