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Three Bulldogs aren't making the cut

A visiting sports reporter scanned the field at Malosky Stadium last weekend and made a quick observation about the Minnesota Duluth football team. "Does Duluth not have any barbers?" he asked. Led by the hairball trio of Joe Reichert, Colby Ring...

Reichert
Minnesota Duluth wide receiver Joe Reichert sports his curly blonde locks before last Saturday's game at Malosky Stadium in Duluth. Dave Harwig for the News Tribune

A visiting sports reporter scanned the field at Malosky Stadium last weekend and made a quick observation about the Minnesota Duluth football team.

"Does Duluth not have any barbers?" he asked.

Led by the hairball trio of Joe Reichert, Colby Ring and Wade Sebold, this certainly isn't your father's UMD Bulldogs.

The college football landscape has changed over the years, with buzz cuts seen about as often on the gridiron these days as leather helmets. Close-cropped 'dos have gone the way of the drop kick, replaced by expressions of freedom and individuality.

Reichert, Ring and Sebold all have hair well past their shoulders, with Ring and Sebold sporting beards as well.

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"It doesn't bother me," said UMD coach Curt Wiese, who sports a clean-cut look. "Those guys need to be individuals. Hair is not something that affects them as far as being community members or football players, so I'm fine with it. It's important those guys have a little bit of their own identity. To each their own."

The Bulldogs certainly still look the part of a team, especially when they're on the road like today, with a game at Wayne State (Neb.). The Bulldogs have new black travel suits all the players are required to wear.

"I never played on a team where guys had longer hair like they do now. You certainly are seeing more of it, from the NFL all the way down," Wiese said. "I honestly don't even notice it anymore. It's never bothered me."

Former UMD coach Bob Nielson was known for leniency, while former coach Bubba Schweigert was more old school, preaching uniformity, but legendary coach Jim Malosky was in a league of his own.

Former UMD football player and assistant coach Scott "HB" Hanna played under Malosky from 1969 to '72, an era when long hair was the norm.

Hanna said Malosky did not allow hair past the collar, no beards, and mustaches only if they were trimmed.

"Times have changed," Hanna said. "I had a little more hair then, and if I wore it down to the collar, Mo was quick to remind me when a trim was due."

Reichert said he hasn't had a "real real haircut" in more than four years, since his first year of college. People jokingly call him No. 0 because the top part of his No. 6 is cut off by his flowing locks.

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While Ring and Sebold could each pass for "Grizzly Adams," Reichert has more of a Samson look, with the longest hair of the group, but no beard. So when Reichert tucks his blonde locks in a bun, like he usually does, the math major is ready for a job interview.

"Honestly, I don't know what's going on with our long hair. We just forgot to cut it, I guess," Reichert said, laughing. "It grows on you. I can't imagine any one of us cutting it midseason. It just has its own aura about it now. Part of it is probably superstition.

"At least I can clean myself up in a hurry. Those other two, I don't even know how their chin straps fit with all that beard. They're like grizzly bears."

While Reichert loves his long hair, all three UMD football players will likely donate their hair after the season to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who are suffering from hair loss due to cancer and other illnesses.

Reichert said their main focus is playing well.

Reichert, of Superior, has been a steady and reliable receiver in four years with the Bulldogs, while Ring, a linebacker, is a senior captain and Sebold provides depth along the defensive front. Ring is even featured on the cover of the Bulldogs' game programs looking like Hugh Jackman's "Wolverine" character.

"At the end of the day, college football is a business, and the coaches just want you to win," said Reichert, who talks with the groove of someone who grew up on the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, not Lake Superior. "So if you like having long hair, and you still come to play, then they're cool with it. I like that. So I'll just handle my business, and keep my long hair."

UMD MOVES ON AFTER TOUGH LOSS

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While UMD was still smarting from a tough 21-17 loss to Minnesota State-Mankato last week, Wiese said the Bulldogs were refocused.

"They came out to practice Tuesday ready to work, and that's all we've ever asked of those guys," Wiese said. "Win or lose on Saturday, you have 24 hours to either celebrate that victory or mourn the loss. We came out on Tuesday with a brand-new focus. We weren't happy with some things in that game, but you have to move on."

The key play against the Mavericks came when Reichert caught what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown with 41 seconds remaining in the game, only to have it called back because of a holding penalty.

UMD (2-1) disagreed with the call but has to live with the result.

Wiese acknowledged that the road to the playoffs is now considerably rockier.

"History will tell you that generally you can't lose more than one game, and not more than two for sure to make the playoffs," Wiese said. "That's certainly in the back of our minds. Each game from here on out becomes increasingly more important, but in the same sense, until you get six or seven weeks into the season, nobody can really forecast a playoff berth for anybody at this point. It doesn't change our approach. Our goal has always been to go 1-0 each week. You need to bring your best each week because if you don't, you leave room to get beat."

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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