Romilly Evans looks at the two faces of Colin Kaepernick and wonders if he'll punish the Jags for passing him by...
"Kaepernick is the type to show little mercy – particularly against a side which denied him a starting spot."
Colin Kaepernick is a man on a mission. Atoning for last year's Super Bowl heartache with his San Francisco 49ers can wait, however. In the meantime, he is on a personal vendetta tour, setting the record straight with a troika of teams who didn't want him aboard their wagons.
Like a federal agent who's chosen to forget the team mantra, Kaepernick has gone rogue to hunt down and destroy three targets who passed on him in the NFL draft of 2011. Last week, he had those three ducks all lined up in a row and firmly in his sights. The Tennessee Titans are now lying in chalk, so Kaepernick only now has two left.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are next on his hit list, followed by the Carolina Panthers. And like Jack Bauer before him, Kaepernick doesn't mind crossing international borders for the kill. London is calling this Sunday.
While each team could not have realised the ramifications of their respective snubs, every "no" gave the Niners QB more motivation. "It's something I definitely haven't forgotten," admitted Kaepernick. The Panthers went with Cam Newton (number one pick overall), the Titans chose Jake Locker (eighth) and while the Jags scrolled down the charts to 10th for Blaine Gabbert.
Kaepernick himself was something of an afterthought, even for San Fran. He suffered the ignominy of being relegated the second round of the draft and was the 36th pick overall. Every child fears the embarrassment of being selected last for the school team - and the rejection still clearly stings for Kaepernick.
"I thought I was somebody they were interested in," he continued. "It's in the past now." But the past is always informing the present. Not least for those who rejected the 25-year-old who must now look back and ponder what might've been.
Of those selected in his stead, only Newton is now making some waves in Carolina, having finally curbed his errant ways in the pocket. Locker is also mired in mediocrity with a 7-8 record at the Titans before a recent hip injury knocked him out of the line-up. Gabbert has fared even worse, emblematic of Jacksonville's current plight, struggling in his rookie season before injuring his non-throwing shoulder against Oakland. He will only be pulling up a seat on the sidelines at Wembley this weekend.
Kaepernick, on the other hand, has already amassed an impressive 12-5 profile as a starter. And after a slow start to the current campaign, the 49ers are now on a four-match winning run. It's the sort of irresistible momentum that should one again propel them to the play-offs and beyond, even though they hail from the strongest division in the league (fierce rivals the Seattle Seahawks presently top the standings and the Super Bowl betting).
Much like his troops, CK has been slow to come to the boil this term. More the mild-mannered reportage of Clark Kent than the intimidating Man of Steel. Yet facing his first Doubting Thomas in Tennessee was all the incentive he needed to start a fire under his towering twin-threat talents. Superman finally took flight, passing for 199 yards and running for a further 68 and a touchdown.
It seems that Jim Harbaugh has finally released the reigns and given Kaepernick his head. He had been averaging only five runs per game this season (down from 6.7 runs per start last year) but now, it seems, his coach has decided to throw caution to the wind.
While some will say Harbaugh was wise to protect him and rely on the attritional gains of warrior running back Frank Gore, you can only cage a bird for so long. For not only does Kaepernick have a cannon delivery (he was once drafted by the Chicago Cubs for throwing 92mph fastballs at high school, don't ya know), but he is also possessed of a pacy pair of paws outside the pocket.
It's a flexibility which allows him to instinctively adapt as plays unfold. It's also a defense's nightmare, opening up other avenues of attack for the 49ers, as rival co-ordinators wonder whether Kaepernick is going to fly solo from scrimmage (his most productive route) or tag in a teammate. Gore, for his part, can only benefit from such indecision. And indecisive is the word which best categorises the Jaguars D.
So expect San Francisco and their tattooed talisman to grind another opponent into the dust on Sunday. Kaepernick is the type to show little mercy - particularly against a side which denied him a starting spot. Like Jack Bauer before him, when his livelihood is threatened, Kaepernick is not above torturing his adversaries.
So expect pyrotechnics at Wembley, maybe even a shootout. But there'll be no need for gas canisters. Special Agent Kaepernick's next assignment shouldn't take 24 hours to complete. More like three and a half.