NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Lance Kaepernick was 23 days old when he died.
He seemed normal when his parents brought him home. Then everything, suddenly, went tragically wrong. Two open-heart surgeries couldn't save the tiny baby Rick and Teresa Kaepernick had so joyfully welcomed into their lives.
Their next son never made it out of the hospital. Kent Kaepernick was 4 days old when he died, also of a heart defect.
"You're 25, 26 and you have two sons buried," Rick Kaepernick said. "You grow up in a hurry."
A daughter, Devon, would follow, joining their healthy, first-born son, Kyle. By then, though, the Kaepernicks were done taking chances and doctors warned them against trying for another pregnancy.
"Maybe the kids would have lived today with all the advances that have been made," Rick said. "But it just wasn't to be."
But the yearning didn't stop, and one day Teresa told her husband she was ready for another baby.
Their new son was 5 weeks old when they first held him at the Lutheran Social Services office in Appleton, Wis. He was healthy, vibrant, and full of life.
On Sunday he'll be behind center, trying to win a Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers.
"He's ready to roll," Rick Kaepernick said this week from his hotel room in this party town. "He's pretty focused."
If the story of Colin Kaepernick's meteoric rise from obscurity to superstar in the making is a remarkable one, the story of his life bears some telling, too. Born to a teenager in Wisconsin a quarter century ago, the only memories he has of his early life are with the couple who adopted him.
He doesn't like to talk about it, and has declined chances to meet with his birth mother. For their part, the Kaepernicks particularly dislike it when people refer to their son as adopted.
Of course, they couldn't have imagined when they began the process that the offspring of a blonde, athletic mother and an African-American father who was out of the picture before he was born would be a star quarterback.
"At the end of the day he's just our son," Rick said.
The Kaepernicks will be in the stands at the Superdome on Sunday rooting for him. So will about 15 family members, who have cheered him on since he began dominating games — almost from the minute he was old enough to throw a ball.
The Colin Kaepernick the public knows is cool and collected, not the least bit nervous about the stage he will be on or the job he has to do. Despite the intense efforts of the media to tease out more sound bites during Super Bowl week, he remains a man of very few words.
"What you're seeing is the way he's always been. He's not one to talk a lot about himself," his dad said. "He doesn't care who gets the headlines or the credit and I think you see that in your interviews. He's just not full of himself."
That was evident Thursday during Colin Kaepernick's last media appearance before the big game. He dutifully answered questions without elaborating, never veering off task before it was finally over and he could return to practice.
"It's not that I'm not comfortable with it," he said. "To me, I'm here to play football. That's what I want to do."