James Burns: Please, Bolden, Cooper and Mathis, choose Merced College

May 7, 2009 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Merced football stars Bernard Bolden, Kenny Cooper and Stephon Mathis will continue their careers at the junior college level. But which one? This is a letter from a fictitous Merced College fan, Bobby Blue Devil, begging the trio to pick MC.

Dear Bernard, Kenny and Stephon,

Before you ball this up and do a Ray Allen into the corner wastebasket, hear me out.

Your rooms are probably littered with notes like this, some more professional and glossier than mine, begging you to come play for their schools and wear their colors.

No doubt the biggies are tacked to your wall.

Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado -- keepers, for sure. Miami and Cal -- pure gold.

However, the reality is that those $50,000 promises are worth as much as the push-pins holding them to the wall. You're going to need time at a junior college -- one, maybe two years -- before you can make the leap to the four-year level.

All three of you have copped to that fact.

Your words. Not mine.

And, believe me, you've got nothing to be ashamed of. Lots of great football players have taken the deep route to stardom.

Hey, if cashing in on a scholarship offer were easy, I'd be the heir apparent to Mark Sanchez down at Southern Cal.

But I digress.

Oh, who am I? Silly me.

My name is Bobby Blue Devil and this...

This is my plea.

I'd like you to stay home and wreak havoc at Don Odishoo Field one last time.

Sense my desperation?

I understand this isn't going to be an easy sell.

In your mind, and maybe out loud, you've already answered this question a million times over.

But as a bleeding Blue Devil fan, one of the few who have sat in the stands on Saturday afternoons and wondered "what if," I've come up with a few selling points that I hope sway you this way.

The city is yours

For three years, we've watched you lay it all out on the line for Merced High. You've invited us into your lives and allowed us to be a part of your Friday nights.

We've hugged you after unbelievable victories -- the kind we couldn't even dream up on Madden.

And we've cried alongside you after emotional defeats. What few there were.

For three years, we've been on this journey together. And when I heard that the three of you were going to use a junior college to be your springboard...

Man, I screamed like a 12-year-old girl at a Miley Cyrus concert.

I don't want to say you'd be kings in this town if you enrolled at Merced College, but I can promise you that the Blue Devils' home and road attendance would double with you three in uniform.

Bringing back tradition

Merced College parted ways with Tony Lewis and brought in Menlo College's Mark Kaanapu, an offensive-minded coach with a four-year pedigree.

Yeah, the buzz of that hire lasted about as long as the Cavs-Pistons series.

The truth of the matter is that Kaanapu is nothing more than a seat-warmer if he can't produce.

He needs players.

Not players, but players.

Here's where the three of you enter the equation: You can change the culture at Merced College.

I really believe it.

You're gamebreakers -- the upper crust of prep players in your class. Your shoeboxes full of letters are proof positive of that.

So in a sense, you can do what Kaanapu can't.

I'll spare you the long diatribe about Merced College's rich football history, but it's worth noting that the Blue Devils were once world-beaters.

And it wouldn't take much to climb the ladder again. Many of your old teammates and friends have laid a solid foundation.

Leon Jackson.

Jamichael Turner.

Kyle McMillin.

No doubt they've tried to recruit you, too.

I'm here to tell you that their words are real. You three can be crowning jewels, key contributors on a team that has Golden Gate Conference title hopes and bowl aspirations.

And if Dion Bland decides to suit up too...

Game over.

If nothing else, look at it like this: You helped turn the program at Merced into the 1990s Buffalo Bills -- one of the best teams to never win a section title.

In a roundabout way, Merced College is the perfect platform to finish the job.

A chance to play

If ever there was a chance to play right away, to contribute and leave a footprint on the game...

Fellahs, this is it.

Every position is up for grabs. That's the way it goes on a 2-8 team.

Can Butte -- the 2008 national champs -- say the same? Do you honestly believe you'll be the only blue-chip recruit hiding out in the woods of Northern California? Honestly?

Even Modesto promises to be a breeding ground for players of like positions.

At least at Merced College, we know you'll get every opportunity to be a game-day starter. Not just a part-time contributor or project player.

There, I've said my piece. I've tried to guilt you, bribe you and beg you. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make.

Think about it. Please.

In fact, here's a push-pin. Tack this one on the wall.

Best regards,

Bobby Blue Devil

James Burns is sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at jburns@mercedsun-star.com.

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