The best way to get to know someone is to walk a mile in their shoes, or so the saying goes. In Turlock High School alum Jonah Kosakiewicz’s case, he’ll soon understand one of his favorite artists on an entirely new level after completing a 450-mile walk in a pair of the designer’s sneakers.
A few weeks ago, Kosakiewicz was selected as the winner of a social media contest held by artist and streetwear designer Warren Lotas, who was looking for volunteers to walk from Los Angeles to San Francisco in his “Reaper” shoe. Kosakiewicz is a big fan of Lotas, whose designs have been worn by stars like Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner, to name a few.
The Turlock native was selected by Lotas to take on the endeavor after Kosakiewicz’s submission caught the attention of other fans, he said; the entry featured not only various hikes he has completed, but also a clip of the former Bulldog running across the field during an Oakland Athletics game in 2019 and successfully evading security.
The submission earned Kosakiewicz the nickname “The People’s Champ,” and just two days later, Lotas was picking him up from the airport to begin his journey.
“It’s still so surreal. It still doesn’t even feel like I was the one who was chosen. It just happened so fast that I haven’t even had time to process it,” Kosakiewicz said. “I’ve been with (Lotas) for a week or so, and coming from Turlock to LA you definitely get a sense of wondering what people's true intentions are. He’s been so generous and helpful, providing me with anything I need...he’s thankful I was willing to do it and that I’m going to finish.”
Kosakiewicz left Los Angeles and started his walk to San Francisco on March 1. As of Thursday, he had walked about 130 miles in the Reapers so far and was settling down in San Luis Obispo for the night. He travels about 15 miles per day, he said, and is followed by a “guardian angel” companion who drives the RV they sleep in at various campsites each night.
He’s been able to make it so far thanks to plenty of stretching, ice and Epsom salt — several things that were a constant during his time as quarterback for the THS Bulldogs. Walking along different highways and backroads for hundreds of miles has proven to be a completely different beast than football for the 2019 graduate, but he’s learned coping mechanisms to continue his pace.
“I don’t know if anything could prepare you for walking like this. This is truly the hardest thing I've ever had to do — it’s a major mental game, and I’m starting to learn it’s 100% more mental than it is physical,” Kosakiewicz said “It’s just fighting yourself every day to get up and go do the 15 miles. The first mile to three miles your feet are hurting, but by the time you get to four you get into a groove and things just start going numb.”
As someone who recently began exploring his own artistic side, collaborating with Lotas on the grueling journey has been a rewarding experience, Kosakiewicz said. He’s enrolled in some art classes at Modesto Junior College, where he hopes to hone his skills and improve. While he’s unsure if he’ll ever design his own clothes with his artwork, the career path is one that has intrigued him as of late.
“I really do like the art that he does, and he translates it onto clothing that you can wear. That’s what fascinates me about it,” Kosakiewicz said. “I’ve been picking his brain here and there, trying to get tips and tricks and ideas. I don’t want to push or pry for any info, but he’s more than willing to talk and share with me so it’s been such a cool process.”
Kosakiewicz plans on arriving in San Francisco at the end of the month and said Turlockers are more than welcome to meet him at the finish line to celebrate the accomplishment. He’s been documenting the journey on his Instagram account, @jonahkosak, as has Lotas on his own account, @warrenlotas. Those interested in keeping up with the journey, along with Kosakiewicz’s completion date, can follow along on either channel.