Six months ago, Kaepernick was fighting for backup QB job

NEW ORLEANS -- Before Colin Kaepernick became the hottest quarterback this side of last season’s Tim Tebow, before he led the 49ers through the playoffs into the Super Bowl, before he joined Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III in ushering in the era of the option-read quarterback, the second-year San Francisco quarterback was fighting for the quarterback job.

The backup quarterback job.

You probably remember how Kaepernick took Alex Smith’s starting job in Week 11 after Smith suffered a concussion, but you might not remember that there was a real backup battle in the preseason between Kaepernick and Josh Johnson.

Johnson had signed a two-year, $2.15 million free agent deal with San Francisco in March, and considering Jim Harbaugh had coached Johnson at University of San Diego, you had to wonder if Johnson would use that past relationship (and his knowledge of Harbaugh’s offense) to get an edge on Kaepernick.

“It was hard work, and it was a competition,” Kaepernick said Sunday. “I was trying to do everything I could to prove that I needed to be at least No. 2 and that I could go out and play.”

As you know, Kaepernick beat Johnson for the backup job -- Johnson ended up signing to play with the UFL when San Francisco kept Scott Tolzien as its No. 3 quarterback -- and then become this season’s NFL folk hero for how he produced after Smith suffered the head injury.

But Kaepernick certainly wasn’t thinking about a moment like this when he was sweating the backup job in August.

“At the start of the season, I was just hoping to get on the field some way, some how,” Kaepernick said. “When I first started starting, I was just trying to do well and make sure we were winning games.”

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