NEW ORLEANS -- The big moment for Michael Vasquez will happen Sunday when the national anthem is performed at Super Bowl XLVII and cameras capture close-ups of the 49ers for the untold millions watching around the world.
"That's when I'll be in the spotlight," Vasquez said, sounding a little nervous.
Vasquez is better known to friends as Red the Barber, and he cuts the hair for about half the 49ers team, including stars such as Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis. And the players asked him to travel to New Orleans so he could give them one last quick trim before taking football's biggest stage.
He is not, Vasquez jokes, the 49ers' secret weapon. But his wife thinks he's the person who could place the 49ers just a cut above the Baltimore Ravens.
"She's been stressing me out, saying: 'You better make sure my guys are good to go so we can win the game!' " he said.
Because players' heads are obscured by their helmets during games, you might think they don't care about how their hair looks. Not true, said tight end Delanie Walker.
"You ever hear the saying, 'If you feel good, you play good?' " Walker asked. "I think that's how every player feels. Besides, with all these people watching you on the sidelines, you need that fresh cut. I gotta have Red. I can't trust anybody else to cut my hair."
Guard Mike Iupati is pretty sure there will be more important factors Sunday than his hair.
"I don't know if I play better just because I look good," Iupati said. "When you line up, it doesn't really matter what you look like. But I guess it's never a bad thing to look good, right?"
Vasquez, 29, is a father of two and a graduate of San Jose's Oak Grove High, where he played football. He has -- you guessed it -- red hair, closely cropped with a tattoo on the back of his head, and a wild red beard. He also can't get over his, well, brush with greatness.
"I just feel so blessed to be in this position," he said.
But like everyone associated with the 49ers, Vasquez earned his place. He started cutting the hair of buddies even before his teens and eventually turned it into a career. Six years ago, through a mutual friend, Vasquez was invited by then-49ers defensive back Keith Lewis to the team's facility for a tryout of sorts. Ever since then, he has been trimming the roster -- so to speak.
"I know I have to be good because if I screw up, I'm gone," said Vasquez, who primarily works at Morgan Hill's Timeless Barbers.
At the Santa Clara facility twice a week, he has had a barber-chair view of the 49ers' rebirth under Jim Harbaugh. But the 49ers coach is not a client. When the coach heard that the charge was $25 to $30 for haircuts, Harbaugh teased: "My barber only charges me 10 bucks!" But Vasquez talks less about money and more about the thrill of just being around the team.
"I was eating breakfast there last week and Michael Crabtree is sitting next to me," he said. "My 5-year-old son gets on the phone and says: 'Good morning, Crabtree. How are you doing?' Now how cool is that?"
Vasquez is in New Orleans performing the same task that high-end stylists do for Hollywood stars who walk the red carpet.
"Everybody is going to be watching us at the game, so you can't go out there looking all rough," Gore said. "Red just comes up with great designs."
Vasquez paid his own way to New Orleans -- he knows the players will take care of the cost -- and hasn't landed a ticket yet.
"If I'm not there, I'll enjoy the atmosphere and watch the game on TV," he said.
At least that way he can admire his handiwork.
Follow Mark Emmons at twitter.com/markedwinemmons.