MERCED — With the exception of a few pockets of Oakland Raider fans, Merced County tends to be San Francisco 49ers territory. That following has only increased with the 49ers' performances the last two years and with former Central California Conference star Colin Kaepernick taking over the reigns at quarterback.
But a small smattering of local fans has been tracking San Francisco's divisional archrivals the Seattle Seahawks.
The flowing locks of former Merced College linebacker John Lotulelei is the reason.
The undrafted free agent has already made a name for himself with his hair, which he hasn't cut since his freshman season with the Blue Devils, and his stellar play.
Lotulelei is tied for fourth on the team with seven tackles a couple of which have been of the teeth-rattling variety after two preseason games. It's garnered him a feature in the Seattle Times and some love on Seattle's NFL.com website.
One of 10 kids, he's the cousin of Star Lotulelei, who plays for the Carolina Panthers.
His fans in Merced have enjoyed every minute, with former defensive coordinator Justin Pinasco posting constant updates on Facebook.
It's unclear what Lotulelei's chances are of making the team, but he's used to exceeding expectations. At 5-foot-11 and 233 pounds he is undersized for the NFL.
Still, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has said several times that he likes Lotulelei's instincts and quickness.
His fans are just enjoying the ride.
Seven Merced College sophomore baseball players put pen to paper, finalizing where they will play next spring.
A veteran pitching staff led the way for the Blue Devils, so it was only appropriate that five of them would be moving on. Mike Nelson (Reinhardt University, Waleska, Ga.), Carl Jameson (Missouri Baptist), Russell Longworth (Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kan.), Darrell Jantz (York College, York, Pa.) and Ryan McDaniel (California State University, Stanislaus) will all continue their careers at four-year schools. Also signing were Ricky McColloch (Campbellsville, Ky., University) and Matt Farias to Holy Names (Oakland).
Moving on 2
Merced College football Bob Casey said three members of the departing class have signed to play in college. Linebacker Brad Avila and Matt Lavender will be lacing them up for Missouri Valley College, while cornerback Michael Roberts will play for Central Oklahoma.
The trio means 16 Blue Devils are moving on to finish up their careers.
Ready to roll
The local college season kicks off next week with the Merced College and UC Merced women's volleyball teams and the Golden Bobcat cross country teams beginning their seasons.
The Blue Devils will host Siskiyous on Aug. 29. The UC volleyball team will host the UC Merced Holiday Inn Express Volleyball Invitational, squaring off against four teams on Aug. 30-31.
The cross country squads will run in the University of San Francisco Invitational on Aug. 31.