TURLOCK — A day after he led the 49ers to their latest victory, the reality started to sink in for some of Colin Kaepernick's hometown fans. The former Pitman High football star is going to start at quarterback for San Francisco in the Super Bowl.
It's still a little unreal for Melissa Garcia, a hardcore Niners fan who started attending Pitman High when Kaepernick was a junior at the Turlock school. She said it's amazing that someone from a small town will play a key role in the country's most-watched sporting event.
"I think it's really cool," Garcia said Monday while proudly wearing a Niners T-shirt while working at Main Street Footers. "That's crazy that he's from Turlock."
While Kaepernick mania rose a few more notches after Sunday's 28-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Garcia expects it to only become more intense over the next two weeks in the run-up to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans against the Baltimore Ravens.
But she's not surprised Kaepernick has achieved so much in only two NFL seasons.
"He's always been a good football player," Garcia said. "I think it's his time."
The Turlock restaurant wasn't the only business experiencing Niners fandom Monday.
Nino Paulis of Sports Station at Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto said the store had plenty of customers coming in to purchase 49ers gear. Customers have only increased during the team's playoff run.
"There's a lot more fans now," Paulis said. "A lot more people looking for Kaepernick jerseys."
Flying off the shelves
Natalie Ott of Sports Authority on McHenry Avenue in Modesto said customers have been looking for sweat shirts commemorating the Niners' NFC Championship. But she said the Kaepernick jerseys and other regular Niners merchandise is what keeps flying off the shelves.
Downtown Turlock was fairly quiet because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday.
Footers, however, had a steady stream of customers lining up to survey the restaurant's large menu of old-fashioned hot dogs. Many customers have been asking for the item named after the 49ers quarterback.
The Kaepernick Special is a hot dog with chili, cabbage, red and yellow bell peppers, jalapeños, and a secret sauce consisting of mustard, horseradish, Thousand Island dressing and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Michael Blanco of Stockton kept hearing about the Kaepernick Special from a friend who works in Turlock. Although he didn't order the quarterback's namesake dish Monday, he's still a big fan.
"He grew up the same kind of way we all did," Blanco said of Kaepernick. "Now, it's even more of a connection for valley people rooting for the Niners."
Blanco had high expectations for San Francisco at the beginning of the season, and the team's quarterback controversy didn't cause him to lose faith.
"Alex Smith keeps it a close game, but Kaepernick puts us over the top," said Blanco, who was wearing the red No. 52 jersey of 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.
Even hot dog sets records
Like the quarterback himself, the Kaepernick Special has quickly established its own records. The restaurant typically sells 30 of its more popular hot dogs a day. On Saturday, 117 Kaepernick Specials were ordered.
Molly Amant was the Footers employee and Niners fan who ran the contest to choose which ingredients would go into the Kaepernick Special. She's just as surprised about the 49ers' success as she is about seeing someone from Turlock achieve national recognition and acclaim.
"You don't see that every day, someone from Turlock make it so huge," Amant said.
George Moralez of Ceres said he roots equally for the 49ers and the Oakland Raiders, but nobody seems to understand his divided loyalty. His admiration for Kaepernick and his Stanislaus County roots is unquestioned.
"It's great to have a local boy make good," Moralez said while waiting for his hot dog at Footers. "There's now a little more hometown pride."
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.