DALLAS (AP) — Vince Lombardi surely would’ve loved to have Clay Matthews or Troy Polamalu on those great Packers teams of the 1960s.
Their hair? Uhhh, that might’ve been a problem.
At a Super Bowl where there’s been nearly as much focus on shampoos and conditioners as zone blitzes and passing schemes, one of Lombardi’s former players huffed at all the attention going to all that hair, from Polamalu’s out-of-control curls to Matthews’ stringy locks.
Heck, one might think there’s a hair convention in town, not the biggest football game of the year.
“Coach Lombardi didn’t like long hair and he didn’t like facial hair,” said Jerry Kramer, a Hall of Fame lineman for the guy whose name is on the Super Bowl trophy.
“It would’ve been, ‘Comb your hair! Cut your hair!’ He wasn’t very shy about telling you that. We were all pretty trim and neat. We just didn’t have all that hair.”
My, how times have changed.
Polamalu and Matthews have such famous manes that each has landed his own shampoo endorsement deal. The Steelers safety pitches for Head & Shoulders when he’s not donning his helmet and shoulder pads, while the Packers linebacker recently landed an endorsement deal with Suave.
They aren’t the only ones going hairy at this Super Bowl. There’s everything from dreadlocks to glorified mullets, with the league’s most famous beard thrown in for good measure. Brett Keisel has two Facebook pages dedicated solely to the Santa Claus-like growth on his face, and he plays right along when asked about how he takes care of all that hair.
“There’s not much maintenance,” Keisel quipped. “I just comb it out every once in a while, brush the birds and squirrels out.”
Jerry Johnson winces when he hears that kind of talk. He’s the lead instructor at the Aveda Institute of Dallas, where he teaches other how to style hair.
“My goal is never to change people. I want them to be who they want to be,” Johnson said Wednesday. “My goal is to sort of polish the rough edges. He’s a good-looking man, with good features. If he wants to wear a full beard like that, let me shape it up for him. Right now, he looks like a homeless person.”
Johnson invited Polamalu to come sit in his chair, as well.
“I would love to get hold of that crazy, curly mess,” the stylist said. “Nobody has figured out how to give him a haircut for that texture without it getting all big and frizzy.”
Matthews and Polamalu, perhaps mindful of the endorsement dollars at stake, have played right along with all the queries about coiffures.
The Packers star even doled out a little good-natured trash talk, without any fear of getting called for clipping.
“Troy may have won defensive player of the year,” Matthews said. “But there’s no doubt that I’ve won best hair in the game on the defensive side. So I’m real happy about that. I think it’s a unanimous decision.”
Polamalu was more diplomatic about his rival, noting that both attended college at Southern Cal.
“There must be something in the water at USC,” he said, breaking in a grin nearly as big as his hair. “We’ll just call it even for now.”
On media day, Polamalu disappointed by showing up with his hair pulled back tightly in a bun, far from the massive ‘do he’ll display in the game, the tresses spilling out from the back of his helmet in tribute to his Samoan heritage.
When a reporter urged him to turn it loose, Polamalu declined.
“This is my media day hair,” he said. “You must only come on Super Bowl days. If you were in Pittsburgh, this is how it is during the week.”
Matthews is short on details when asked about Green Bay’s plans to stop Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ rugged offense. There is no such hesitancy when asked what is more important: shampoo or conditioner?
“You need shampoo, obviously, to keep it clean. You can’t have it greasy and nasty out there on game day, especially when you’re putting the helmet on,” Matthews said. “But the conditioner really seals the deal. If you can use a little conditioner, help lock in the moisture, keep the fly boys down, that’s really going to help you out.”
He’s not much for blow dryers.
“That can damage your hair,” Matthews said, somehow managing to keep a straight face. “I’m more of a wash-and-go guy. Get it cleaned up, pull it back and walk out the door with it.”
Keep an eye on Matthews right before kickoff, when he drenches his hair and slings it back one last time, the water flying in all directions before he slides into his helmet.
What’s that about?
“I wake myself up for the game,” he said. “That’s something I’ve been doing since college. Even in 15-degree weather, you’ll still see me do it. My hair may turn into icicles, but it wakes me up and gets me ready.”
C’mon, is that the only reason he does the Fabio impression?
Matthews knows when he’s busted.
“That,” he added, “is for the ladies at home.”
Well, keep it up, big guy.
“Clay, he knows how to work his hair,” said supermodel Marisa Miller, flicking back her own luxurious locks. “You see him with his water bottle, squirting his hair and he does the slow-motion thing. So you have be able to work it.”
Johnson, the hair stylist, is actually encouraged by all these super ‘dos, even if he’d like to do a little snipping here, a little clipping there.
“Guys are not supposed to have long hair,” he said. “That’s absurd. If you’ve got good hair, you’ve got good hair. What I love is they’re sort of breaking the taboo of a (tough) man having long hair. It’s also showing people, yeah, you can make a little cash while exploring how to take care of your hair better, to make it look like you want it to look. It doesn’t make you a sissy to have good grooming habits.”
Then there’s Brett Swain, a backup wide receiver for the Packers. Grooming would appear to be the last thing on his mind, with his scruffy beard and straggly hair — an untidy version of the mullet that makes him look as though he just stepped out of the movie “Wayne’s World.”
“Grow the hair long, grow the beard long, and let’s go to work,” Swain said. “Let’s get nasty. Let’s get down to some football.”
There are practical benefits as well.
“Have you ever been to Green Bay?” Swain said. “Well, you know we have negative-degree weather. It’s tough to deal with that. If you grow your hair a little bit longer, it helps warm you up a bit.”
Rock on, Brett. But remember this: For all the discussion about hair in the lead-up to Sunday’s game, none of it will matter when the teams step on the field.
A ring on the finger is the best look of all.
“I don’t care what Clay Matthews does with his hair,” Kramer said, “as long as he continues playing football the way he’s playing football.”
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