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January 24, 2013

The not-so-obvious Super Bowl story lines

We have nearly two weeks to get to the brothers coaching in the “Super Baugh,” the three R’s (Ray, Religion and Retirement) and the ink that’s on Colin Kaepernick’s arms and not on Joe Flacco’s next contract.

But for now, let’s try to venture off the paths that will be beaten silly soon enough. Here are four questions we thought of well before the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens kick off Super Bowl XLVII at the Superdome in New Orleans on Feb. 3.

Q: So who drafted the tattooed QB?

ANSWER: Trent Baalke was a high school athletic director looking for a career in finance when the Jets called to see if he’d like to interview for a scouting position back in 1998. He said yes, went to New York, got the job and, well, just look at him now.

Today, the 1987 graduate of Bemidji State is one of the NFL’s hottest decision-makers. Baalke is also the guy who traded up to select Kaepernick in 2011 during his first draft as 49ers general manager.

Baalke, the Rosendale, Wis., native who became an All-Midwest Region outside linebacker at Bemidji State, traded three picks to Denver to move up nine spots and select Kaepernick 36th overall. Kaepernick was the sixth QB selected that year after Cam Newton (Panthers), Jake Locker (Titans), Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars), Christian Ponder (Vikings) and Andy Dalton (Bengals).

A week from Sunday, Kaepernick will make the Super Bowl his 10th career NFL start. Only former Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler (six) and former Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo (seven) had fewer starts before starting in the Super Bowl. Hostetler won Super Bowl XXV, while Ferragamo lost Super Bowl XIV.

Q: Will Birk follow Lewis into retirement?

A: Unlike Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Ravens center Matt Birk won’t tell anyone whether he plans to retire after the Super Bowl, the first of his 15-year career.

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