The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
College of San Mateo defensive back Joseph Turner will gladly sit and discuss the nuances of his position with anyone. A student of the game much like his Bulldog teammates, nothing is off limits when talking about why CSM’s defense was one of the best in the state of California last season.
But when it comes to matters of the hair and his prized dreadlocks, well, let’s just say the man isn’t as giving.
“A lot of people do ask me about my dreads,” Turner said. “They think I have nice dreads, so they ask what I use. But I don’t tell people so I can keep mine exactly how they are — nobody can know. I use my own little stuff.”
There is a delicate and intricate upkeep to No. 10’s dreadlocks — one that requires Zen-like patience and thus has led Turner’s teammates to agree that a finer set of dreads you will not find in the CSM locker room.
And Turner makes no bones about the pride he takes in his lavish locks and the precision of each carefully twisted strand.
Oh, you see, that’s because when you’re a member of the CSM football team, not just any ‘do will do. No sir.
A waltz into the CSM locker room on any given day during the season and it’s like walking into a salon waiting room, with the brothers on the team huddled in separate hair tribes; dreadlocks, long hair, afros, an array of fades — all of them battling for hair supremacy.
“Everyone is competing,” CSM slot and fellow dread-ster Levi Wilson said. “Everyone is going to try something new.”
“I’ll compare myself to like, Levi Wilson or Chris Jackson,” Turner said. “We have a couple of guys on the team this year with dreads. … We just made little jokes about it.
“It ranges throughout the different ethnicities. You have the blacks with the dreads, the Polynesians with the long hair and we have some of the white homeboys too, with the long hair — No. 11 Matt Viñal. We just liked to swag it out this year.”
This season in particular was special for ‘dos on the CSM football team, so much so that if you were one of the lucky ones, one of the most hardworking, one to rise to the pinnacle of pili, you became a member of the CSM Hair Club — a celebration of the Bulldog style and swagger throughout various social mediums.
Of course, nowadays, it’s not uncommon to turn on the television on the weekend and see men with long, wavy hair flowing from their helmets looking like lions hunting on the football field. And while athletes like Troy Polamalu turn their locks into endorsement deals, for the men on the CSM football team, an attention to hair was something that acted as a braid across the locker room.
“Honestly, it’s an awesome feeling knowing that you’re coming out with the swag,” Turner said. “You know what they say, ‘Look good, feel good, play good.’ The swagger, it’s indescribable because, it’s not like we try hard to do it — it just comes naturally with our team just because of our brotherhood and how close we are. We just have that swagger as a whole.”
“It was fun,” said Viñal of his now regrowing locks of golden brown hair. “I love having my haired pull back all the time. I did like near the end of the season how it would come out of the helmet and it’s always flying around and stuff. The only problem was when the pieces actually got out of the hair band and just get you in the face.”
Viñal’s perspective and inclusion in the hair club was unique in that it stepped across cultural boundaries and stereotypes.
“I was the only white guy with the long hair,” Viñal said. “And they always made fun of me, ‘You’re just trying to fit in with the Polynesians, you’re trying to fit in with the blacks and it was funny because they could always style their hair in different ways — for me, I just had to let it flow out. It was a lot of fun because, basically, they just embraced me into their culture.”
It was quite a diverse blend of cultures on the CSM team — 50 percent of the players were black, 30 percent Polynesian and the other 20 represented an array of different personalities and touches. And the Bulldogs had hairstyles to cover every one of those.
From players like Turner and Jackson with the intricacies of their dreadlocks. To Sione Sina, Lyman Faoliu and Eric Tuipolutu and their Polynesian manes. To players like Nate Jackson and Maurice Williams with their fades decked on in and lined up with different designs. To Semisi Mataele and an afro that should be patented and commended for the perfection of its sphere.
“For me to pick it, it takes about five minutes,” Mataele said. “It doesn’t take long for it to form, I just pat it down and, if I like the shape, I let it go and go about my day. It takes a lot of practice to grow it out and take care of it. Once you take care of your hair, it’s all good.”
“One thing you have to know, if you’re going to get dreads,” Turner said, “you have to be patient — it takes a lot of time and treatment because you have to make sure you have to keep them clean. It is money, too, if you’re going to the shop to get them done. They come in different shapes and sizes.”
“He would do like, RGIII singles all the time during the season,” Viñal said, commenting on CSM and Serra High School teammate Tuipolutu. “Then he’d switch it up and go cornrows. I went to high school with Eric and I had never seen his hair like that. It was funny to see him with so much hair now.”
And while the list of pilus virtuosos goes on and on (Derrick Johnson, David Sevelo, Viliami Fukofuka), time and time again, Bulldog after Bulldog, referred back to the master of the mane: Sina.
“That guy and his Tarzan locks,” Faoliu said, “all the girls fall for him for that one.”