SANTA CLARA How do you root for the 49ers when you live in the land of cheeseheads? Kathy Algiers admits it's not easy.
Algiers and scores of residents of New London, Wis. about a half-hour drive from Lambeau Field suddenly became conflicted on April 29, 2011, when the 49ers drafted Colin Kaepernick in the second round.
Kaepernick, who'll start at quarterback Saturday against the Green Bay Packers, comes from a big family. And most of that family lives in New London, a town of about 7,000 residents where the Packers are like a second religion. Sunday mornings are spent at church with a tie around your neck; Sunday afternoons are spent with the Pack with a wedge of cheddar on your head.
Algiers is Kaepernick's aunt and godmother. Her reaction when the 49ers chose Kaepernick: "Well, at least I don't hate them."
It would have been different, she said, if her beloved nephew had been taken by the Vikings, Lions or those blasted Bears.
When they were 20, Rick Kaepernick married his high school sweetheart, Teresa Algiers. They adopted their youngest child, Colin, in 1988 and three years later moved to Turlock, where Rick had a job with the Hilmar Cheese Company.
Most of the Kaepernick-Algiers clan about 60 grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, Rick estimates remains in New London or nearby cities.
"People always ask me if I'm rooting for the Packers," said Rand Kaepernick, Colin's uncle and godfather. "I tell them, 'The last time I checked, the name 'Kaepernick' isn't on the back of a green and gold jersey.' I tell them family comes first."
"Family first" also has become Algiers' motto when friends and neighbors ask about her allegiance. But when you're from Wisconsin, the Packers quickly find their way into the bloodstream, too.
Algiers recalls her father attending the famous "Ice Bowl" game between the Packers and Cowboys in 1967 and remembers fuming that he didn't take her with him. "I go way back," she said.
When the Vikings and Packers met Dec. 30, Algiers knew a Minnesota win would give the 49ers a bye and would be a big help to her nephew. As much as she reminded herself of that, however, she said she couldn't stifle screams of "Get him!" whenever Vikings running back Adrian Peterson broke free.
The family dichotomy was in full effect when the 49ers visited Lambeau Field on Sept. 9.
About 50 family members attended. Some wore red No. 7 jerseys and received a lot of puzzled looks since Kaepernick wasn't particularly well-known at the time. Some stuck with their Packers gear. One family member wore her Kaepernick jersey under her Packers gear.
Algiers, dressed in a red No. 7, cheered loudly for the Packers. And when Colin ran for 17 yards at the end of the half, his only appearance in that game, she screamed just as wildly for him.
"I'm sure the people around me were really confused," she said.
Of course, the Kaepernicks aren't the only family involved in Saturday's game that has had to alter allegiances.
While Colin is a Wisconsin native who grew up rooting for Brett Favre, his counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, is from Chico and grew up as a huge 49ers fan. His mother, Darla, attended games with her father at Kezar Stadium when she was a child. Rodgers used to wear a Joe Montana T-shirt under his jersey when he played at Cal.
After the 2005 draft, Rodgers wasn't exactly thrilled his hometown team passed him over with the No. 1 pick in favor of Alex Smith.
"(Twenty-one) teams passed on me, and when my time comes to play, I'm going to show those teams they made a mistake," he said on ESPN Radio days after the draft.
"And if we play the 49ers at their place, I'm going to make sure the entire city of Chico comes down there to watch us beat them."
Saturday's game will be Rodgers' first non-preseason game at Candlestick Park.