TURLOCK — Colin Kaepernick's legs are flashing, each stride eating large chunks of turf, as he blows by the Green Bay Packers.
He's pulling away now, his pursuers retreating like cars in his rearview mirror, as he speeds toward the end zone. He crosses the goal line, breaks into his biceps-kissing "Kaepernicking" pose, and hurls himself straight into America's arms.
Kaepernick, Turlock's favorite son, is a star, only eight starts into his career as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He's only 25, still a babe in the eyes of the NFL, but the young man is as it's said today trending.
Kids from 10 to 70 are Kaepernicking. He is everywhere from the front pages to websites to the cover of Sports Illustrated. Fans imitate his daddy longlegs sprints and his prances into the end zone. They see the tattoos, the goatee, the smile, the rocket arm and, yes, all those touchdowns.
Ever since his outrageous hello-world performance Jan. 12 against the Packers, Kaepernick has gone viral.
He's not just a property of the 49ers. He is the NFL's newest flavor, a Twitter treat. The folks on Madison Avenue call it "moving the needle," and Kaepernick flips it off the dial.
If he's sampled the hysteria spinning around him, he's not letting on.
"I have no time to stop and think right now," he said last week. "Too much work to be done."
Which means all is well, if a touch chaotic, in the world of Colin Rand Kaepernick.
His $608,000 salary makes him an NFL bargain. If he wanted to, he could immediately bank many times more.
Shawn Smith, his marketing agent, has heard pitches for a book, a documentary and memorabilia deals. Kaepernick's No. 7 jersey was the NFL's best seller on its online shop last week. A women's version has sold like water in the Sahara for nearly a month, according to ESPN.
One year ago, he was a backup quarterback fighting for his spot in the football universe. Today, he owns the spotlight in a sport where it shines the brightest.
"I think he's everything you kind of want, right, wrapped up in one," said ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer. "He's big, he's good-looking, he's athletic, he can throw, he's very articulate. And at the same time he's a little different, he doesn't necessarily look the part, and I think that's kind of cool and cutting-edge.
"And he's performing. I think at the end of the day you get famous in the NFL when you light it up. And he lit it up on a huge stage."
Amazingly, Kaepernick and the 49ers stand one victory at Atlanta from a berth in the Super Bowl. And get this: A win today would only fast-track the Kaep Bandwagon from 90 to 190 mph.
Is it good that a Stanislaus County product has injected himself into the national conversation? No, it's great.
Finally, after years of numbing unemployment, empty shopping centers, home foreclosures and homicides covered by CNN, the Central Valley projects a bona fide gem in Kaepernick.
At some point, the question must be asked: Why? Touchdown scorers come and go. What makes Kaepernick connect?
At the eye of the storm sit Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, Colin's parents. All answers to the above begin with them, the couple who adopted him when he was 5 weeks old.
"The more people who told him he couldn't do it, he would show you that he can," Rick Kaepernick said this week. "If you know Colin, you know that he's very driven and very competitive. At the end of the day, Colin is just Colin. I'm so proud."
National media have made visits to Pitman High, Kaepernick's alma mater, and to the family's new home in Modesto. Clearly, the nation seeks a closer look.
First, the obvious: He's 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and cut like a middleweight. His physique and style set him apart from every other quarterback. He ran for 181 yards last week, the most by a quarterback in NFL history. At Nevada, he became the first player in collegiate history to pass for 10,000 yards and run for 4,000 yards.
Second: His attacking style is rearranging priorities in pro football. Kaepernick and fellow newcomers Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton with a bow to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M are changing how the game is played. Defenses must address their legs as well as their passing arms.
In that way, Kaepernick's innovation can be compared to Modesto-raised Kenny Roberts, the first American to win a Grand Prix motorcycle racing world title in the late 1970s. Roberts reworked his sport's manual with his dirt-track-based riding style, and so it goes with Kaepernick.
And third: He appears to be the genuine article.
Here is where trust, as President Ronald Reagan once said, must be verified. Fandom thought it saw the real thing in Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong, only to be burned later.
So far, there has been no deception about Kaepernick. His life is simple, just him and his 115-pound tortoise, Sammy, and he's never been less than polite and generous.
His outreach for Salida-based Camp Taylor, for children with heart disease, is noteworthy. None of his time there has come attached with TV cameras. He stretched one of his visits, scheduled for only three hours, to seven. His parents lost two infants to congenital heart failure, so bringing enjoyment to the kids holds dear importance to him.
"Colin's whole thing is no matter what you do in life, you focus all the way," Rick Kaepernick said. "He does beat to a different drummer. He's not a follower."
The parents no doubt instilled that in him. A poster they selected for Colin's bedroom sent the perfect message. Featured was a generic football player and the following: "If it is to be, it is up to me."
From such inspiration drew Kaepernick's now-celebrated prediction, while he attended fourth grade at Dutcher Elementary School in Turlock, that he would become the quarterback of the 49ers.
His teachers noticed how Colin always helped slower-learning students in the classroom. He earned straight A's at Pitman and, during the 2011 NFL scouting combine, scored an impressive 37 on the Wonderlic intelligence exam (20 is considered average, 50 is perfect).
The emphasis on "team" always has resonated with Kaepernick. Notice how his 49er teammates respond to him. They're engaged, and so is he, and it doesn't appear staged.
"He has a passion for these games. He likes being part of a team," Rick Kaepernick said. "He is going to do anything in his power for his team to succeed."
Such single-mindedness is deep-rooted. Only Nevada offered him a football scholarship. So all he did was make history.
More pathfinding awaits today. No first-year starting quarterback has led his team to the Super Bowl. Coach Jim Harbaugh rolled some serious dice by replacing veteran Alex Smith, who was performing at a high level until his concussion, with Kaepernick in midseason.
But Harbaugh saw something in the tall man from Turlock with all those audacious skills. Now the country understands, and among all of Kaepernick's tattoos reads one emblazoned in script across his chest that proclaims his personal motto: "Against All Odds."
That's why the NFL can't keep up with him.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302.