Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton were roommates at the 2011 NFL Draft Combine, but they have grown apart from there.
While Newton went on to become the No. 1 overall pick by Carolina Panthers, Kaepernick had to wait another day before being drafted in the second round by the San Francisco 49ers and heading to the opposite side of the country.
Their rookie seasons were night and day as well, with Newton winning NFL Rookie of the Year while Kaepernick watched and waited. The roles were reversed late last year, when Kaepernick took over as 49ers starter and led them to the Super Bowl while Newton watched.
Through it all, the former roommates have kept tabs on each other from afar. Sunday, they'll reunite.
"We got to know each other extremely well, and obviously with him being such an explosive player and dominant player, I've tracked him and kept up with him ever since," Newton said. "As far as communicating, text-messaging, we haven't gone as far as that, but I've got respect for him. I'm pretty sure he feels the same."
Despite their differing paths, Kaepernick and Newton are quite similar. Newton compared himself and Kaepernick to dinosaurs, not in the way that dinosaurs are extinct but rather in the way that no one in the NFL has never seen a dinosaur.
"You hear every type of critic critique your game," Newton said. "But when you have success like the 49ers, who went to the Super Bowl running zone read and throwing the football downfield, you see there are ways you can be successful with this offense."
Utilizing the zone read that both had great success with in college, Kaepernick set an NFL record – playoffs or otherwise – for rushing yards by a quarterback with 182 in a postseason victory over the Packers last season. This season, he set a franchise record for the most passing yards in a season opener with 412 against the Packers.
Newton, who threw for 400-plus yards in each of his first two starts, set an NFL record for the most rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback with 14 as a rookie in 2011.
"Yes, we have similarities," Kaepernick said. "We're both big, both fast, both can throw the ball well and both have the opportunity to make plays for our offense."
Newton doesn't believe he and Kaepernick will go the way of the dinosaurs, doesn't believe that their propensity to wander outside of the pocket will doom them to injury. Robert Griffin III, another quarterback cut from a similar mold (though 25-plus pounds lighter), suffered a major knee injury in the playoffs last season, but it happened in a non-contact situation tracking down a bad snap.
"Just because we are running quarterbacks, that doesn't mean we'll get hurt at a higher level," Newton said. "Tom Brady tore his ACL in the pocket. Carson Palmer the same thing. The same thing that happened to RGIII pretty much happened to those guys in the pocket.
"You're just as vulnerable inside the pocket. This is football. This is a contact sport, a collision sport. So no matter what you're doing, you're at risk to get hurt."
Instead of worrying about the risks of injury, Kaepernick and Newton are focused on continuing to do damage to opposing defenses.
"I think they're both really great, both great players," 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I think you can really just leave it right there. That's all the comparison that needs to be made. They're both great."