Pitman High graduate and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made a surprise appearance at his alma mater’s commencement ceremony Thursday night.
The 2006 Pitman grad and current NFL superstar made a stealthy entrance onto the stage to bid farewell to one of his old high school football coaches, Brandon Harris.
Kaepernick’s arrival at the end of the ceremony, after all the diplomas had been handed out, sent the already celebratory crowd into a roar as cell phones were whipped out to record the moment alongside the graduates’ accomplishments.
Kaepernick’s quick appearance — less than five minutes — was set up for maximum shock and awe.
Pitman Principal Rod Hollars arranged it as a final celebration of two departing teachers, Harris and David Jack. Harris has been with the football program for eight seasons and took over as head coach in 2006. He is leaving to take a position in Idaho to be closer to his mother, who is battling cancer.
Hollars brought Harris on stage, and then said he had a very special “live stream” for him. Kaepernick appeared on video, started to speak and then was apparently pulled away. A few seconds later, he came out on stage in person.
“I had to come back to say goodbye to two of my favorite teachers and also congratulate the graduates,” he said. “I’m saying goodbye to one of my good friends and best coaches. I have a lot of great memories with him.”
The two men hugged, and then it was over — except for the cheering.
“I told you it was going to be a memorable evening, didn’t I,” Hollars boasted to the crowd afterward.
Most in the crowd had no idea Kaepernick would be at the event.
“It was a total surprise,” said Kristin Pope, who graduated from Pitman last year and came to cheer on a graduating cousin. “He’s an amazing person to come and say goodbye to his coach. I think it’s great. Like, what quarterback in the NFL does that?”
Graduates were among the bamboozled. Eighteen-year-old Benji Williams, diploma in hand, said no one thought Kaepernick would be there.
“All year, we’ve heard rumors that Kaepernick is coming to this or that, but he never showed up,” Williams said. “But this is the best one for him to be at, definitely.”
His friend Elias Sherzad was similarly surprised and gave the celebrity appearance proper deference.
“Oh, we graduated?” he joked. “I thought we were here for Colin Kaepernick.”