Boise State's Kellen Moore and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick -- Two of a Kind
BOISE, Idaho – Boise State junior Kellen Moore and Nevada senior Colin Kaepernick weren't likely candidates for the national spotlight when they first began their college careers.
Both quarterbacks were just short of begging FBS schools to take a chance on them. Exactly two schools took that chance.
And when the two team's stars clash in third-ranked Boise State's game against 19th-ranked Nevada in the de facto WAC championship game Friday night, their impressive talent will make many college coaches look inept – and two look really smart.
Ignored for Different Reasons
Moore and Kaepernick's story is intertwined with as many similarities as contrasts, starting with their coach's son DNA and shared struggle to land a scholarship at an FBS school.
Moore's father, Tom, was the head coach at Prosser High School in Prosser, Wash., where they developed the program into a perennial state title contender.
Kaepernick's father, Rick, who with his wife Teresa adopted Colin at five weeks old, coached high school football in Wisconsin before moving to Turlock, Calif., for a new career opportunity. He helped develop his son as a quarterback until the eighth grade, when he turned over the reins to his school's coaching staff. They promptly moved Kaepernick to wide receiver before returning him to quarterback his freshman year.
Pac-10 schools told Moore his 6-foot-nothing height was too much – or too little – to overlook. Pac-10 schools feared the rangy Kaepernick was too good at baseball for him to overlook the money he would receive as an early round draft pick a few months after signing day.
Those coaches are likely smarting with regret.
In three seasons at Boise State, Moore has stood tall against the Broncos' stiffest competition, winning one game each season against a ranked Pac-10 team. The consistent pocket passer also has his name etched in the school record book many times over, most recently eclipsing the school record for passing yards.
Kaepernick has kept his heart and mind on football, leading the Wolf Pack to a 10-1 record this season. The electrifying dual-threat signal caller carved up Pac-10 foe California this season to the tune of 329 yards -- 181 passing and 148 rushing -- in a 52-31 victory. Top-ranked offensive juggernaut Oregon struggled to perform its offensive dissection against Cal, failing to gain as many yards of total offense as Kaepernick did by himself.
Kaepernick, who already has his own school records, needs only 16 rushing yards against Boise State to become the first FBS quarterback in history to pass for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 in three consecutive seasons.
But despite being jilted by name brand programs, don't expect either player to zing a snide remark in their direction. It's not their style.
Admired for Similar Reasons
Winning is their style, a style devoid of trash talking and chest thumping.
Moore has lost only once in his three-year career at Boise State, owning an impressive 36-1 record that includes wins over five of the six ranked teams he has faced.
Kaepernick is 18-6 over the past two seasons at Nevada and has the Wolf Pack in position to derail the Broncos' BCS dreams.
And both are dedicated and intelligent, drawing mountains of praise from their coaches.
When Moore was in high school, he used to save his Christmas money to purchase old playbooks from college teams off eBay. By the time Moore arrived at Boise State, the growing folklore was that he already had the Broncos' playbook -- for the past four seasons. Paranoid over such secrets as his vaunted playbook slipping out of the program, Boise State coach Chris Petersen claims to have no idea how the resourceful Moore got them, but publicly shares the story to demonstrate Moore's fastidious study habits.
Kaepernick finished high school with a GPA over 4.0 and graded impressively high on his recent Wonderlic test as part of the seniors' pre-pro day. Before being told the rumor of just how high Kaepernick scored on the test, his father Rick quipped, "I don't know, but I'm sure it was higher than (Tim) Tebow."
It was much higher than Tebow, the former Florida quarterback whose dual-threat style dominated the college football world's attention over the past four seasons. Sources told Rick that his son's score was third best in the nation among NFL prospects who took the test.
Also an outstanding student in the classroom and a freshly minted second-team academic All-American, Moore has quickly grasped Boise State's offense, which has slowly been built around his strengths. Likewise for Kaepernick, as Nevada coach Chris Ault's increasingly popular "pistol" offense was tailored for him.
And both have thrived in mastering their offenses and emerging as team leaders.
Last year, the Chicago Cubs drafted Kaepernick in the 43rd round of the Major League Baseball draft. The invitation was simple: Pitch in four games in the month of July, pick up a healthy paycheck and we'll still be here after you finish playing football.
Kaepernick quickly dismissed the offer. The reason? "What kind of leader would my teammates think I am if I left for a month to play baseball?" he told club officials. He spurned the Cubs' generous invitation, choosing to train with his teammates instead.
Moore is known to spend hours watching video, a self-professed film junkie who rivals coaches in the amount that he watches. As a result, when it comes to big games, Boise State receiver Austin Pettis said he can always count on Moore to be prepared to lead the team into battle.
"In big games, it's probably just his personality," Pettis said. "He's a lot more relaxed. A lot of people might go into those big games a little more tense with more butterflies, but he you don't really see that in Kellen too much. When he comes out as a confident leader, we all play with confidence."
As arguably the two best quarterbacks in the WAC, Moore and Kaepernick share a mutual respect for one another as well. The two quarterbacks both found themselves at the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana this past summer, where they learned to appreciate the other's skill-set even more.
"I think Colin is very good," Moore said. "As people have had an opportunity to watch him, he's just a tremendous athlete and one of the best athletes to play quarterback in college football right now.
"He has the ability to run and make plays on the run, while at the same time being able to drop back and make some throws. I've seen him get better and better like a lot of quarterbacks throughout the course of a year."
"I love watching him except when he plays us," Kaepernick said of Moore. "He's very confident with what Boise (State) does. I love watching him make some plays and leading his teams to wins."
But all that talk will be put on the backburner when the two try to walk away Friday with something only one can have -- the win.
Kaepernick's father said that his son's competitive nature has always been extremely high. "If you put a trash can in the middle of the living room floor and wadded up pieces of paper to see who could make the most shots, Colin would expect to win," Rick said. "He's just so competitive."
"It's our last shot at Boise State (in the WAC)," Kaepernick said. "Our goal is to win the WAC championship and you have to go through the best to become the best. They've been the best the past few years. We definitely have to knock them off."
For Moore, Friday's game is about fending off Nevada again to give the Broncos a chance at BCS dreams.
"We know what's at stake and what the situation is -- and we're already excited about that," Moore said moments after the Broncos blanked Fresno State, 51-0, last week.
They both know what's at stake -- both personally and for their teams. And neither is going to go quietly.