San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick goes into this season’s playoffs a season wiser – and perhaps even better than 12 months previous.
The 26-year-old helped guide his team to last year’s Super Bowl, with a stand-out performance against the Green Bay Packers particularly catching the eye 12 months ago.
Kaepernick is set to renew his rivalry against the Pack in this weekend’s wildcard round of fixtures, and linebacker Patrick Willis believes the No.7 is even better after a tough first full season in the NFL.
“I know people expected coming into this season he was going to coast through this football league. But it's the National Football League, so sometimes you're going to have those tough droughts, those tough games,” he told the press on Thursday.
“I feel like it's a true character of who he is as a football player, the ability to bounce back, stay positive and continually lead the offense. I look for him to do great things in these playoffs.”
Whilst such pressure might be too much for some young players, Kaepernick appears to have a wise head on young shoulders, and has matured during a season of ups-and-downs at Candlestick Park.
The former Nevada college star has the ability to do damage both in the air and on the ground – a point proved with his record 181 rushing yards against the same opposition in the playoffs last season.
A depleted Packers defence will have to figure out how to stop him quickly on Sunday night, or face another painful defeat at Lambeau Field.
“I'm just more comfortable with the situation, with the scenario,” said the man himself.
“Last year, everything just happened fast. This year, I have the experience of being in the playoffs, I have the experience of being in the offense.”