ST. JOSEPH, Mo. Colin Kaepernick is ubiquitous these days. Just ask Alex Smith.
Not only is Kaepernick front and center at award shows, featured in national ad campaigns and splashed across magazine covers, he makes regular appearances in Smith's film study.
Along with Smith, one of the Kansas City Chiefs' acquisitions this season is Chris Ault, the former Nevada coach who invented the pistol formation and perfected it when Kaepernick was the Wolf Pack's quarterback. Smith said Ault, who was hired as a consultant, hangs out with Kansas City quarterbacks "all day, every day."
"Very ironic," Smith of the situation, a wry smile on his face. "It's great to have him, though. Extremely knowledgeable. We talk a lot, all the time."
So, uh, how much does Ault bring up his now-famous former protégé?
"Yeah, we talk about Kap, for sure," Smith said. "We watch spread option stuff of Kap, or RGIII (Washington's Robert Griffin III) a lot. Some Nevada film for sure."
Rest assured, there is no resentment or hard edges from the always easygoing Smith, who faces his former 49ers teammates in a preseason game Friday. Following a late-afternoon practice at Missouri Western State on Wednesday, he was funny, relaxed and eager for another chance to help lift a fallen franchise, albeit one that is not nearly as talent-starved as the 49ers squad he took over in 2005.
Smith said he might have had some bitterness about his eight seasons in San Francisco if it weren't for the last two years there under coach Jim Harbaugh. He was 20-6-1 as a starter over that span, threw 30 touchdown passes against six interceptions and experienced his greatest NFL memory his winning touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in the 2011 divisional playoffs.
Of course, there were also some bumps.
Harbaugh and the 49ers flirted with then-free agent Peyton Manning in 2012 just months after Smith led the 49ers to the playoff win against New Orleans. And, of course, Harbaugh chose Kaepernick as his starting quarterback over Smith after a concussion kept Smith out of a Week 11 game against Chicago.
Still, Smith called the Manning affair "a little blurb," and he said going to the Super Bowl, even if he watched it from the sideline, was a memory he'd always cherish.
His lowest point by far, he said, was trying to play with a badly separated throwing shoulder in 2007 when Mike Nolan was the 49ers' coach.
"I felt I was getting pushed to come back, then I did, and then it's, 'Well, you're not playing good,' " Smith said. "As a young player, that was really hard for me to handle.
"That, and 2010 was a long year," he continued. " That was very frustrating because it was the exact same team the next year, pretty much."
Smith said he was excited and optimistic about his new situation because so much of it reminds him of the ascendant 49ers of 2011, right down to where Chiefs coach Andy Reid positions himself in practice.
"A lot like Jim," Smith said. "Literally, they stand in the same spot. They stand right behind you."
Reid is Smith's fourth head coach in nine seasons, and he's had eight offensive coordinators in that span, too. One of the few benefits from that experience is that Smith quickly can spot a good situation when he sees it.
And he said he has a similar comfort level with Reid, who has a reputation for coaching quarterbacks, that he did with Harbaugh.
"As a quarterback, your biggest pet peeve is that, you throw a ball too high and (the coach) tells you to get it down, right?" Smith said. "It's like, 'Well, thanks. I could have told you that. We all know that.' Coach Reid's so great at 'why.' Why did you throw that too high. And talking to you about that: 'Hey, you're standing up too tall and your front shoulder went up.' He does such a great job of doing that. Right there on the spot, he sees it."
Smith said he's exchanged a few text messages with Harbaugh and Kaepernick this season, and he said he looked forward to seeing former teammates like Frank Gore and Adam Snyder, who were part of Smith's 2005 draft class.
One of his closest friends on the team, left tackle Joe Staley, may not make the trip, Harbaugh said, because he is recovering from an injury.
Smith was in for only one series in the Chiefs' exhibition opener against the Saints it ended with a touchdown and he said the plan is to play longer against San Francisco. He also noted it was awkward, and even a tad intimidating, to game-plan for the 49ers' defense.
"I had never watched film on them and had to ask, 'How do we beat them? Where are their weak points?' " he said. "They're sound and play good football. It'll be a great test for us."