While the Michigan football team suited up for the Maize and Blue Spring Game Saturday — an intra-team scrimmage open to media and the fans alike — the attention wasn’t all on the players, nor was it solely on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.
The spectacle of the day was Colin Kaepernick.
The civil rights activist and former NFL quarterback who played for the 49ers under Harbaugh held a 15-minute workout during halftime of the Spring Game. He threw simulated routes to free agent NFL wide receivers and draft hopefuls.
The workout wasn’t much to write home about one way or another. Kaepernick demonstrated an ability to put zip on the ball, firing some hard passes into the receivers’ hands, and had multiple throws with strong placement on short and deep balls.
“I’ve thrown with him a couple times this week,” senior quarterback Cade McNamara said. “Dude’s got a rocket. He can sling it for sure.”
And while that rocket was on full display, Kaepernick missed on some passes, floating the ball behind receivers or out of their reach. He also saw multiple dropped catches — a mix of receivers’ mistakes and a lack of touch from the quarterback.
But while the halftime workout was advertised as the main event of Kaepernick’s guest appearance at Michigan, his presence brought a greater benefit to the team. Earlier in the week, Kaepernick spoke with the Wolverines, offering advice and encouragement.
“He just brought a positive energy, and his message was sort of just, ‘Every day, stack the days, stack the days every day, get 1% better. When you’re not working, someone else is getting better and getting ahead of you,’ ” junior receiver A.J. Henning said Thursday. “So his message to us was just continue to work every day with a chip on your shoulder like there’s no tomorrow.”
His interaction with the team went beyond the speech, mingling with players and throwing with quarterbacks and wide receivers.
“As soon as he walked in the room, he lit up the room,” graduate transfer center Olusegun Oluwatimi said. “He’s energetic, he’s funny. And obviously, I mean, he was throwing to some of our receivers and he’s got an electric arm, so it was just really good to have him around the team, honestly.”
Kaepernick’s presence — as expected — brought some controversy. He’s been battling for years to reclaim a spot in the NFL that he feels he deserves based on his skill level, one he lost following his national anthem protests.
But despite the inevitable discourse, Harbaugh brought his former San Francisco quarterback into the program as an influence, and granted him the title of honorary captain for the Spring Game on top of the time allotted for his workout.
There are no guarantees this event lands Kaepernick an NFL roster spot, nor does it guarantee anything for any of the Wolverines on the field. Either way, Michigan hopes that Kaepernick’s visit is a positive for the team and the program:
“It was really nice … just having him in the facility, the type of guy he is, what he has done outside of football and within football,” junior running back Blake Corum said. “He’s a great player, great guy and someone you want to bring around your team.”