It’s not unusual for college teams to invite former NFL stars to their spring games to serve as honorary captains. But to invite one who never took a snap for the school? That’s new.
But that’s what Michigan football is doing, as former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will serve as an honorary captain at Saturday’s Maize and Blue Spring Game, the school announced via Twitter on Wednesday.
The school tweeted out photos of Kaepernick at Michigan’s practice facility with the caption:
“Excited to share the field with our honorary captain for Saturday’s Maize and Blue Spring Game, @Kaepernick7 #GoBlue”
Kaepernick hasn’t thrown a pass in the NFL since 2016. No NFL team signed him following that season, in which he ignited a national debate by kneeling during the national anthem played before NFL games. Recently, though, Kaepernick has been working out with Seattle Seahawks players as rumors of an NFL deal circle.
MAIZE AND BLUE DETAILS:2022 spring game details announced
The Nevada alumnus’ time with the 49ers overlapped with Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh from 2011-14. The 49ers drafted Kaepernick in the second round in 2011 under Harbaugh’s oversight. Harbaugh then installed Kaepernick as the starting quarterback midway through the 2012 season; the QB led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where they lost to coach John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans.
Kaepernick passed for 12,271 yards, 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in 69 games with the 49ers.
When Kaepernick began sitting, then kneeling, during the anthem, Harbaugh was asked for his thoughts on the statement.
“I acknowledge his right to do that,” Harbaugh said in August 2016, “but I don’t respect the motivation or the action.”
Minutes later, Harbaugh clarified his stance on Twitter: “To clarify, I support Colin’s motivation. It’s his method of action that I take exception to.”
Over the following year, after discussing protests with his players, Harbaugh was active in his support of the quarterback, penning an op-ed for Time Magazine during the 2016-17 offseason:
“At times in our nation’s history, we have been all too quick to judge and oppose our fellow Americans for exercising their First Amendment right to address things they believe unjust,” Harbaugh wrote. “Rather than besmirch their character, we must celebrate their act. For we cannot pioneer and invent if we are fearful of deviating from the norm, damaging our public perception or — most important — harming our own personal interests.
“I thank Colin for all he has contributed to the game of football as an outstanding player and trusted teammate. I also applaud Colin for the courage he has demonstrated in exercising his guaranteed right of free speech. His willingness to take a position at personal cost is now part of our American story. How lucky for us all and for our country to have among our citizens someone as remarkable as Colin Kaepernick.”
Harbaugh also backed Kaepernick on the football field that offseason, telling the Rich Eisen Show in March 2017, “I also think he is one of the very best quarterbacks in the National Football League.
“His leverage isn’t super high right now, but remember, he played on a team last year that struggled mightily. He strapped it on every single game. He doesn’t get hurt. When the bell’s rung, Colin Kaepernick answers.. .. No doubt in my mind he’ll be on a team, whether it’s closer to the draft or right after the draft…. I know that he’s preparing like a madman. when he reports to camp.”
Kaepernick has since filed and settled a lawsuit against the NFL, alleging collusion to keep him from playing in the league. He and 49ers teammate Eric Reid reportedly received less than $10 million in the settlement.
Gates to the game at Michigan Stadium open at 11 am, and the team will enter the field for warmups at 11:30 am The event is free to attend for fans, and lots surrounding the Big House operated by the university will be free and open to the public starting at 7 am Cars parking at Pioneer High School will be charged $30.