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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Nevada's Cody Fajardo, as himself, is compared to Colin Kaepernick

The quarterback, who spent a redshirt year as the understudy to 49ers star at Nevada in 2010, begins his junior season against UCLA. He is well on his way to leaving his own legacy.

August 27, 2013|By Chris Foster
  • Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo, who led Anaheim Servite High School to a state title in 2009, passed for 2,786 yard while also rushing for another 1,121 yards last season for the Wolf Pack.
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo, who led Anaheim Servite High School to… (Kent Nishimura / Getty Images )

People never tire of making the comparison. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo accepts it.

It's Colin Kaepernick this and Colin Kaepernick that. Even Fajardo can get caught up in stories about the former Wolf Pack star.

Hours before Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers took the field for last season's Super Bowl, Fajardo fired off a text message to his predecessor.

"I just said, 'Congrats, good luck,' " Fajardo said. "A few minutes later, he sent back, 'Thanks, Cody.' This was one of the biggest days in his life and he took the time to respond. That's pretty amazing."

Amazing … unbelievable … freak of nature. All have been attached to Kaepernick.

It doesn't leave much for Fajardo, who spent a redshirt year as Kaepernick's understudy in 2010 and begins his junior season Saturday against UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

Nevada offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich has his own word for Fajardo: "Incredible."

It stems from a game in which Fajardo was beaten, battered and abused by Arizona, in the New Mexico Bowl in December. Yet the quarterback kept coming back for more.

Fajardo needed a triage team after suffering a bruised knee and a torn thumbnail on his throwing hand, as well as taking a shot to the head. With all that, he never missed more than one consecutive play and finished with 396 total yards in a 49-48 loss.

It was a Kaepernick-adjacent performance. Fajardo rushed for 140 yards and one touchdown. He passed for 256 yards and three touchdowns.

Rolovich had questioned Fajardo's fortitude during the regular season, but he left that game with an entirely different opinion.

"Either you want to call it growing up or really being a man, but he showed the toughness. And how he ran the ball, the decisions he made throwing the ball — he was really focused," Rolovich said.

Sounds like the stuff from which legends are made.

"Hopefully, when I'm done, I'll have left my own legacy at Nevada," Fajardo said.

Nevada is prepared for that. The sports information office will gladly volunteer a chart comparing Fajardo and Kaepernick through their first two seasons.

Yards rushing: Kaepernick 1,723; Fajardo 1,815.

Yards passing: Kaepernick 5,024; Fajardo 4,493.

Touchdowns, passing and rushing: Kaepernick 97; Fajardo 81.

Everyone wants to link the two.

"I heard people compare him to Colin Kaepernick," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "I watched him on film this morning and I could see that. He does great things."

Fajardo has the required self-awareness and maturity.

"When you come after someone like Colin, you have to be yourself," Fajardo said. "If I walked in and wasn't Cody Fajardo, and tried to be Colin Kaepernick, it wouldn't end well."

The journey to fill Kaepernick's cleats was anything but smooth.

The DNA was right. Cody's father, Tim, played at Texas Tech. Cody's grandfather, George, played at Colorado.

Cody Fajardo led Anaheim Servite High to a state title and in 2009 won the The Times' Glenn Davis Award as the Southland's top high school football player. He threw for 4,040 yards and rushed for 1,808 in two seasons. He was also a member of the honor roll.

The resume looked right. But the offers were not streaming in.

"People weren't sure where he would fit," said Brandon Huffman, the national college football recruiting analyst for Fox Sports. "Even Nevada thought he might end up a safety."

Nevada needed a quarterback, though, when Taylor Kelly backed out of an oral commitment to sign with Arizona State.

It was the first time since 1991 the Glenn Davis Award winner went to a non-Bowl Championship Series school.

Fajardo found Nevada appealing for several reasons.

"I loved the atmosphere, I loved Lake Tahoe, I loved the pistol" offense, Fajardo said. "And I had a chance to learn from one of the greats."

In his first year, Fajardo watched Kaepernick. Then, in 2011, he started seven games.

Last season, he announced his presence early. Fajardo threw for 230 yards and ran for 97 in a 31-24 victory over California in the season opener. It was reminiscent of the 329 total yards Kaepernick rolled up in a 52-31 victory over the Golden Bears in 2010.

Fajardo finished the 2012 season with 1,121 yards rushing and 2,786 yards passing.

"What more do you want from him than what we got last year?" Coach Brian Polian said. "We want him to just be himself."

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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