- Associated Press - Sunday, May 26, 2013

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Star Lotulelei spent Sunday being introduced to life in NASCAR country.

Lotulelei, a defensive tackle from Utah and the 14th overall pick in the NFL draft, attended Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 pre-race activities at Charlotte Motor Speedway and said he was “blown away” by the festivities and the tailgate parties in and around the track.

“I know the Indy 500 is big and I’ve been there, but I think this has got it beat right now,” said Lotulelei, a native of Tonga. “This right here is a ton of fun. I’ve got the all-access pass so I’m getting the full tour. And it’s been an unbelievable thing.”

Lotulelei said meeting Jeff Gordon and other NASCCAR drivers was “pretty cool,” but said the highlight of his day was getting his picture taken with “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson. Robertson took his father’s small duck call business and turned it into a multi-million dollar business that sparked the niche program that now airs on A&E.

“That was a neat thing to get a picture with him,” Lotulelei said. “I can’t wait to get back and tell some of people at home. You can watch this stuff on TV, but there is nothing like being here. Just being here, man, I think I can do this all year around.”

Lotulelei was accompanied by a handful of his new Carolina teammates, including third-round draft pick Edmund Kugbila from Valdosta State.



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