Colin Kaepernick won the best breakthrough athlete award at the ESPY’s last month, and now he’s landed on the cover of GQ. The San Francisco 49ers QB made his first NFL start on Nov. 19 after starting quarterback Alex Smith suffered a concussion and ended up leading the squad to the Super Bowl.

It’s been well-reported the Kaepernick had to fight to get himself on a college football squad, forgoing the baseball offers and sending tapes out to all the universities that would accept them. He eventually was offered a full ride at the University of Nevada where he did well enough to get drafted as the 36th overall selection by the 49ers. But what kind of quarterback Kaepernick is remains to be pinned down by analysts.

"I think the biggest part of my game that's underestimated is the mental part of it," Kaepernick said in his GQ interview. "Probably because it's invisible. You can't see the hours I put in. It is funny to me that because I can run, because I'm athletic, people tend to see that as my only asset. And that's fine—I hope they continue to see it that way [and underestimate me]. Look, I won't say that view is 'racist.' I will say it's stereotypical. I've just heard it so many times before."

Kaepernick, who was born in Michigan, was raised by his adoptive parents Teresa and Rick. They later moved with him and their two biological children to California. When Kaepernick would ask his white parents about his skin color they’d say, “You’ve got such beautiful brown skin! We're jealous!" according to his father Rick. "We never wanted him to feel that he was white or that he should be. Only to be who he needed to be." He added that they once drove Kaepernick to Modesto from Turlock, Calif., so that he could get cornrows to look like Allen Iverson.

There’s no question that Kaepernick possesses a certain amount of hubris about the way he defied expectations when he stepped out onto the pitch for San Francisco, but celebrity and stats aren’t what drive him. "You know what I love most about this game? You know what I miss the most when I'm away from it? Being around my teammates,” Kaepernick said. “That's it! Growing up, when I dreamed about playing in the NFL, it was never about being famous, never about the roar of the crowd. It was about other players.”

Kaepernick’s dream is well documented. In fourth grade, he wrote in a letter to himself: "I hope I go to a good college in football, then go to the pros and play on the Niners or the Packers even if they aren't good in seven years." Fortunately for him, the Niners are good, and he’s a big reason why.

Chelsea Regan

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