Seven months ago, Colin Kaepernick was a little-known backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
Sure, the 2006 Pitman High graduate was a familiar name in these parts, but to the rest of the country, he was just another NFL clipboard caddie.
His introduction to the rest of the nation came Nov. 19, when he started in place of the injured Alex Smith in a Monday Night Football matchup against the Chicago Bears.
San Francisco routed Chicago 32-7, Kaepernick never lost the starting job, and he led the 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance in nearly two decades.
But that was just the beginning.
Aided by a swashbuckling style of play and his penchant for "Kaepernicking" kissing his biceps after scoring a touchdown (he actually kisses the inscription tattooed on his upper arm) his star now hangs in another galaxy.
He was a presenter at the Country Music Awards, he became a pitchman for Jaguar, threw out the first pitch at a Giants game, and there was a meeting with first lady Michelle Obama, of which a photo was taken of them Kaepernicking.
Pretty heady stuff for a 25-year-old young man who grew up in Turlock. But one thing about Kaepernick you're not likely to see on TMZ.com or read on any celebrity blog is his association with Camp Taylor, founded by Salida's Kimberlie Gamino for children with heart defects.
"Congenital heart disease is the No. 1 birth defect in the United States," says Gamino, who started the camp for her son, Taylor, who was born with half a heart. "Each year, 40,000 children are affected, and more kids die in their first year of life from heart disease than from all forms of cancer combined.
"The Kaepernick family is one of these families. They lived my greatest fear as a parent they lost children to heart disease."
Goes all out for kids with disease
Kaepernick's parents, Rick and Teresa, lost two infant boys to heart disease. Born between oldest son Kyle and daughter Devon, Lance lived 23 days and underwent two heart surgeries before passing. Kent died at 4 days old.
"It was Colin that got us involved with Camp Taylor," says Teresa Kaepernick. "He had just been drafted by the 49ers and he had received a check for something. He said, 'I want to donate this check somewhere where it'll help kids with heart defects.' That just blew me away.
"Losing children to heart disease wasn't something we really talked a lot about as a family, but obviously he had given a lot of thought to this."
But Kaepernick wanted to do more than just endorse a check.
"Colin goes all out for the kids," says Gamino. "He's all about the kids, making them smile and being there for them on their level ... well, not really, he's 6-foot-4.
"Last year, he was supposed to be at the camp for three hours; he stayed seven. This year, Colin is staying at the camp, but that's all I'm going to say!"
This year, the quarterback and Gamino have come together to create the inaugural Camp Taylor & Colin Kaepernick "Against All Odds" Golf Tournament, slated for Monday at Del Rio Country Club.
"When we asked him to be a part of this, he didn't say 'yes' ... he said he'd be honored. He trusted us with his name."
Kaepernick is not only lending his name, time and the motto he has tattooed across his chest ("Against All Odds") to the event, he's also playing in the 180-player field.
"I'm not sure I'd call Colin a golfer," quips Teresa Kaepernick. "He has quite a swing and he can hit it a country mile, but ... I think he's a little better on the football field."
With his newfound celebrity, Kaepernick could have partnered with any number of charities throughout the country. That he chose to use his status to raise funds and awareness for children with heart defects shows his level of commitment to Gamino and Camp Taylor.
"If there's anything you need to know about the Kaepernick family, it's that they're loyal to their friends and family, and that they consider many of their friends to be family," says Gamino. "There's nothing short-term about a relationship with the Kaepernick family."
Bee staff writer Joe Cortez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2380.
'Colin goes all out for the kids, he's all about the kids, making them smile and being there for them on their level well, not really, he's 6-foot-4.' Salida's Kimberlie Gamino, founderof Camp Taylor